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Senate Approves Two Healthcare Reform Bills

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The Texas Senate passed two healthcare reform bills this morning. Both are aimed at reducing waste and inefficiencies and would pay healthcare providers based on patient outcomes rather than the types or number of services provided.

State Sen. Jane Nelson’s Senate Bill 7 focuses specifically on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The bill proposes a change to how providers are reimbursed for “preventable readmissions and complications,” among other ways to discourage emergency room use. Senate Bill 8, which is similar to SB 7, focuses on streamlining the entire healthcare system and improving transparency. Both bills are co-sponsored by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. (In fact, snarky lobbyists in the Capitol have been referring to the bills as “Dew-bamacare.”)

“Our intent is to ensure that the dollars we invest in health and human services are achieving the results we want, which is healthy patients,” Nelson said. Both bills have won broad support from across the political spectrum. And both bills are now headed to the House. But with just 41 days left in the session, their chances in the lower chamber remain unclear.

Here are the highlights of each, taken from Sen. Nelson’s press release issued after the bills were passed:

Senate Bill 7

  • authorize Medicaid payment reductions in cases of preventable readmissions and complications
  • allow the state to share savings with providers who deliver high quality, efficient care;
  • establish copayments for unnecessary emergency room visits;
  • create incentives for providers who reduce non-emergency use of the emergency room; and
  • study pay-for-performance in long-term care.

 Senate Bill 8

  • develop a statewide plan for improving health care transparency, quality and efficiency;
  • establish the Health Care Collaborative certificate for providers who join together to provide care that promotes quality, patient engagement and coordination of services;
  • require public reporting of potentially preventable readmissions and complications;
  • develop standardized patient identification wristbands based on patient medical characteristics; and
  • recognize exemplary health care facilities and make the information available to the public

Alexa Garcia-Ditta is an Observer reporter (and former intern) covering women's health, reproductive health and health care access across the Lone Star State. Before joining the Observer, she was a staff news writer at the San Antonio Current. She holds an MA in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and BA in journalism and Spanish from UT-Arlington, where she worked for three years on her college newspaper. After graduate school, she dipped her toe in public policy communications at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. When she's not at work, she's probably training for her next marathon.