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Senate Approves Bill on Health Reform Costs

In a mixed-bag swipe at "Obamacare," the Texas Senate approved a bill today that would require state agencies to report the costs — and savings — of implementing federal health care reform.

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In a mixed-bag swipe at "Obamacare," the Texas Senate approved a bill today that would require state agencies to report the costs — and savings — of implementing federal health care reform. 

The version of House Bill 335 passed by the lower chamber prohibits state agencies from implementing provisions of federal health care reform without first submitting a report to the Legislative Budget Board. For each federal regulation, the agency must report whether it is possible to receive a waiver instead, describe the actions required of the agency, identify the penalties of not implementing the provision and estimate the total cost incurred by the state. According to the bill analysis, the intent of the authors is to “protect government transparency and better inform citizens of the impact of [federal health care reform] laws.” 

The Senate adopted three amendments by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, which lawmakers said would show both the positive and negative effects of the health care reform law instead. “I’m for [federal] health care reform, you’re against it. No question about that,” Ellis said to Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, the Senate sponsor of the bill. But both members agreed the provisions in the amendments would increase transparency. 

Birdwell gave Ellis his word that two of the amendments, which they had the opportunity to discuss together before the bill came to the floor, would stay on the bill when it goes into conference. 

The first strikes the requirement that the report be filed before implementation, and allows agencies to submit the report after implementation. The second amendment requires state agencies to also report increases in federal funding and cost savings. Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, told lawmakers that including cost savings in the reports would ensure "the Legislature and the public would have a complete picture.”

The third amendment, which was also accepted by the Senate, would exempt federal reforms implemented before the passage of the bill — such as extending dependent coverage for young adults under the age of 26 — from the agencies' reports. Birdwell did not give the same guarantee that the provision would not be removed in conference because he said he did not have the same opportunity to review it before the bill came on the floor. 

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