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Ogden Revives Key Piece of Federal Health Reform

Implementing a key piece of federal health care reform in Texas — something Gov. Rick Perry has expressed his firm opposition to — may be back on the table.

Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) looks grim while he peruses Senate Bill 1 on January 31, 2011.

Implementing a key piece of federal health care reform in Texas — something Gov. Rick Perry has expressed his firm opposition to — may be back on the table.

A bill authored by the influential chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, would create a state health insurance exchange, a marketplace for the public to seek out insurance options.

But that’s not the only surprise element in SB 1586, which will get a hearing today. The bill also appears to lift, at least in part, Texas’ long-standing ban on hospitals hiring doctors — as long as it is part of a state pilot program to seek cost savings and efficiencies in health care.

The health insurance exchange is an obligatory piece of federal health care reform; the feds have insisted that if states don’t implement them on their own, Washington will step in and do it for them. But Republican Rep. John Zerwas’ efforts in the House to launch one appeared to stall after Perry expressed opposition to rolling it out. With Ogden on board, the so-called “Health Insurance Connector” gets new life.

So does an effort to lift the “corporate practice of medicine” law, which bans many hospitals from hiring doctors. Despite a litany of other bills designed to carve out certain types of hospitals, physician groups fight session after session to keep the law on the books. Ogden’s committee could get an earful if they proceed down that path. 

Finally, the bill establishes a committee to tackle health care payment and delivery system reform, another attempt to curb costs in an increasingly expensive health care system. 

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