Second Life: Bill Becomes Health Care Christmas Tree

Rep. Lois Kolkhorst R-Brenham and Rep. John Zerwas R-Simonton during amendment discussion for  SB 8 on May 24th, 2011
Rep. Lois Kolkhorst R-Brenham and Rep. John Zerwas R-Simonton during amendment discussion for SB 8 on May 24th, 2011

The special session is the last-chance-dance for bills that died during the regular session. Our "second life" series will help you keep track of the comings and goings of old measures. This installment: health care.

House leaders started with an omnibus health care bill — one designed to improve medical outcomes and cost efficiency while saving the state more than $400 million over the 2012-2013 biennium. By the end of Wednesday’s debate, it included several more amendments, as lawmakers used the bill as their last-ditch effort to get health care measures that failed during the regular session passed in the special session.

The House tentatively approved Senate Bill 7 — which aims to make Medicaid more cost-effective, allow doctors to partner with hospitals and other health care groups to reach better outcomes, and expand Medicaid managed care into the Rio Grande Valley — by a vote of 91-47.

Among the amendments that passed:

— Republican Rep. Lois Kolkhorst’s bills seeking a health care compact (a partnership with other states to take control of Medicaid and Medicare) and asking the Obama administration for a waiver to operate Medicaid as Texas sees fit (which the federal government is highly unlikely to ever grant). Both bills are also stand-alones that are being considered in the House and Senate.

— Republican Rep. Wayne Christian's bill that would ban hospital districts from using local tax revenue to fund abortions, except in emergency situations — or else risk losing state funding.

— Republican Rep. Bryan Hughes’ proposal to limit the state family planning funds received by Planned Parenthood, and Rep. Bill Zedler’s measure to force physicians who provide abortions to collect more data on their patients.

— Democratic Rep. Eddie Lucio’s measure that would ensure that hospitals, facing a major overhaul in how they are reimbursed under the state budget, won’t lose more than 8 percent of their revenue from the change.

Among the amendments that failed:

— Republican Rep. Susan King’s attempt to limit the products people on food stamps can buy, based on their nutritional value.

— Republican Rep. Debbie Riddle’s amendment to allow health care professionals to opt out of vaccinations if they have certain religious beliefs. 

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