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The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 17, 2011

It's not Obamacare, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Wednesday of new state health care legislation, virtually ensuring comparisons.

Sen Jane Nelson during press conference introducing Senate Bill 7 & 8, legislation to improve health care


It's not Obamacare, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Wednesday of new state health care legislation, virtually ensuring comparisons.

Dewhurst unveiled the two new health care bills with state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, the bills' author, at a press conference Wednesday. The legislation will encourage doctors and hospitals to work together to "improve medical outcomes by incentivizing doctors and hospitals to use best practices and focus on wellness and prevention, rather than the number of procedures they perform," Dewhurst said.

Specific provisions in the two bills include the establishment of a statewide doctor-payment system based on improving patient care quality and finding efficiencies. Another provision would reduce Medicaid payments to doctors when patients are readmitted for preventable illnesses.

And without prompting, notes the Austin American-Statesman, the lieutenant governor was sure to add that the bills were the "furthest thing" from President Barack Obama's federal health care reform.

But comparisons revealed some similarities. Both the state bills and federal law make reference to programs looking to reduce "potentially preventable admissions." And federal reform references "Accountable Care Organizations," which are effectively medical homes that manage patients' primary care, similar to the "Health Care Collaboratives" mentioned in the state legislation, the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw noted.

How significant is the overlap? Republican Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, chairwoman of the House Public Health Committee, told the Statesman that the federal law included some "good ideas."

And Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said, "At some point in time, there is a consensus on stuff."


  • The controversial abortion sonogram bill could come up for a vote today in the Senate — if Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, can get the two-thirds vote needed to bring it to the floor. Senators spent Wednesday in tense negotiations, and there's word of a potential substitute that would be favorable to more of them. The bill presents a mathematical conundrum, because lawmakers aren't simply split along party lines: A couple of anti-abortion Democrats support it, and a couple of Republicans oppose it on civil liberties grounds.
  • Warren Chisum for railroad commissioner? If the Pampa Republican and former House speaker candidate is considering it, as reported Wednesday, he's got a couple of options: to go for one of two seats that will open in 2012 — or go for the one seat that could replace the role of the three elected leaders under a proposed restructuring of the commission.
  • Political tension over's decision to withdraw operations from the state carried into Wednesday as Comptroller Susan Combs fought claims that she hadn't told Amazon how her office calculated the $269 million bill it sent the mega-retailer in past-due sales tax last year.

"We ought to hit the reset button. Go back through with teachers, experts, businessmen and women and do it right." — First-term State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, a Republican, on controversial curriculum standards


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