The House Committee on Insurance heard testimony Monday on several bills including:
HB 368 by Rep. David Farabee (D-Wichita Falls) relates to health coverage for certain mental disorders in children. Witnesses representing the Texas Association of Business and the Texas Association of Health Plans expressed concerns with the bill, suggesting that the definition for mental illness was overly broad and that such mandates further escalate health insurance premiums. HB 368 was left pending.
HB 542 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) relates to reimbursement under certain health plans for services provided by licensed podiatrists. Two podiatrists testified before the committee in favor of the bill, arguing that podiatrists should be reimbursed at the same rate as physicians. Those in opposition noted that the legislation as written undermines the network concept and can adversely affect cost-containment efforts. HB 542 was left pending.
HB 712 by Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands) relates to coverage for certain mental disorders in children under the TRS health plan. HB 712 was left pending.
HB 765 by Rep. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) relates to the required minimum annual policy limits for certain group accident and health insurance policies. A substitute was proposed and adopted by the committee members. The Texas Association of Health Plans and others were opposed to the substitute for HB 765, but indicated to committee members they are willing to work with Rep. Menendez on the issue. The bill was left pending.
HEALTH ISSUES (POTENTIALLY GOOD)
Based on legislative concern over managed care, the Health and Human Services Commission has put a temporary hold on the award of a managed care contract, in order to provide extra time to explain the program to lawmakers and obtain their advice. Many medical community trade associations have expressed opposition to Medicaid managed care. The STAR-Plus contracts remain pending before the Health and Human Services Commission. Some of the leadership, however, sees some managed care as a necessity to prevent health-care cost increases from busting the state budget. Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins and his team continue to wrestle to find a solution that will please all sides.
Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) filed HB 713, and Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) filed its companion SB 518, which would establish a program that allows the Texas Department of Pharmacy to license Canadian pharmacies to sell and ship prescription drugs directly to Texans. Participating Canadian pharmacies would be required to meet the same safety standard as any other pharmacy operating in Texas. This will impact insurance costs positively. The bill specifies:
* Canadian pharmacies must be licensed by the Texas Department of Pharmacy;
* Medications must be prescribed for long-term use;
* Medications must be approved by Health Canada for sale in Canada;
* Medications must be manufactured in the United States or have an equivalent approved for sale in the United States by the FDA;
* Medications must require no special handling such as refrigeration; and
*Texans cannot purchase more than a three-month supply of any one drug at one time.