Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, threw herself a life raft tonight, attaching her Health Care Compact bill — a measure that would seek to give Texas control of the purse strings for Medicare and Medicaid — onto a Senate health care bill up on third reading in the House.
That measure, Republican Sen. Jane Nelson’s Senate Bill 8, now heads back to the upper chamber, where Nelson has had no luck getting enough Democrats on board to bring up House Bill 5, Kolkhorst’s Health Care Compact, in time for tonight’s midnight deadline. (Also tangled up in the Senate is Kolkhorst’s HB 13, which would ask the Obama administration for a block grant to operate Medicaid as Texas sees fit.)
The House overwhelmingly passed SB 8. But some of those who supported it were still concerned with adding the Health Care Compact portion. Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, is an ardent opponent of the Health Care Compact — and said funding Medicaid with block grants is dangerous, because the money is based on standard inflation, not medical inflation, which grows at a far greater rate.
"The idea that a block grant would give us more money is just not true," he said. "Flexibility means lower costs. Flexibility means cut benefit packages. That’s what flexibility means."
Earlier in the day, Kolkhorst said she was holding hostage SB 8, a key element of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s state health reform plan, to wait for her Health Care Compact bill to come up in the Senate. SB 8 provides a framework for health care collaboratives — the partnerships between hospitals, doctors and other health care providers that supporters say could lead to better medical quality and cost savings.
When SB 8 came back up in the House this evening, Kolkhorst wasn't the only one with amendments. Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, tried successfully to get chiropractors covered by insurance plans. And Rep. Jodie Laubenberg tacked on an amendment to exempt health care workers from vaccinations if they object for reasons of religion or conscience.