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Lawmakers, Hospital Administrators Revisit Texas Medicaid Waiver

Texas lawmakers and hospital administrators took a hard look Tuesday at the state Medicaid waiver recently OK'd by the Obama administration.

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Texas lawmakers and hospital administrators took a hard look Tuesday at the state Medicaid waiver recently OK'd by the Obama administration. 

“This impacts every hospital in this state ... and every community,” Tom Suehs, Texas' health and human services commissioner, said in a morning hearing.  

The waiver allows Texas to keep drawing down billions of federal dollars even as the state expands Medicaid managed care programs designed to curb costs and make care more efficient for Texas' neediest patients. 

The funds will be split into two pools, one to help hospitals offset the costs of uncompensated care, and another as an incentive program to encourage hospitals to expand access to primary care and improve the quality of health care.

The waiver also directs the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to use federal dollars to fund community-based programs. It is targeted at hospitals in rural areas and allows them to expand programs treating health problems that are most pressing in their specific counties.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, chairman of the County Affairs Committee that held the hearing, said the waiver is “a change for the better.”

But some legislators are concerned about how these changes will be implemented.

“I’m seeing some broad statements made,” said state Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock. “I still see a lot of holes to fill.”

Ben Melson, chief financial officer of Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, said it's important to note that plans to implement the waiver are “a work in progress.”

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