Texas legislators discuss health policy priorities ahead of the next legislative – Health News Today

Four state lawmakers gathered this week to discuss the health care and fiscal policy teed up for Texas’s 2021 legislative session. The conversations took place between two separate panels – one featuring Democrats and the other featuring Republicans – during the 2020 North Texas State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference.

The Democrats panel featured Reps. Lina Ortega and Chris Turner. Reps. Tom Oliverson and James Frank offered their perspective on the Republicans panel.

Below are highlights from the wide-ranging discussions that took place in both panels.

 

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Policy Leadership: Republicans

  • Rep. Tom Oliverson, Vice Chair of the House Insurance Committee, says the most important health care issue that needs to be addressed in the coming legislative session is affordability. In particular, he highlights the importance of making health insurance more affordable for Texans. 

“We have a robust insurance market, but unfortunately it locks too many people out because it’s just simply not affordable,” says Oliverson. “We need to find a way to get those costs down so that folks will find value in having insurance coverage.”

  • A key to affordability, says Oliverson, is price transparency. He says we can expect to see a big push on this topic from Republican leaders in 2021. 

“Because the patient is kept in the dark until after the service is provided, we do not have a cost-effective health care delivery system. It just doesn’t exist.” 

  • He says they need to encourage a cash-based system for more health care services so that individuals have the ability to shop around. Oliverson brought up the examples of cosmetic surgeries and LASIK as areas where there is a known cash price and as a result, they say quality has improved and prices have gone down. 
  • Rep. James Frank, who Chairs the House Human Services Committee, says Republicans will also prioritize access to care. This, he says, is intertwined with affordability. 
  • Supporting telemedicine is also key to improving access to care, he adds. Oliverson says next session he would like to see a further expansion of telemedicine and a recognition that if services are provided at the same level of care via telemedicine, then the service should be reimbursed the same as in-person. This will help with the shortage of providers in the state, particularly in the areas of mental health, specialty care, children’s health services, and in rural areas.

“Being able to leverage the providers that we have to the maximum extent possible by giving them the flexibility to see patients in person or over the internet…I think that’s pivotal,” says Oliverson. 

  • Another potential area to be addressed during the session is licensure compacts, which Oliverson says can help expand the workforce and make it…

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