Money for Manpower: THA Testimony Applauds Proposed Workforce Dollars
Testimony season kicked off last week at THA, which had plenty of positives to point to as the Texas Senate Finance Committee took comments on the education portion of its 2024-25 budget bill.
Jennifer Banda, J.D. THA’s senior vice president of advocacy & public policy, told the committee last Tuesday about the state’s “extreme health care workforce challenges” and the need to address them through robust funding for workforce programs. Senate Bill 1 includes encouraging dollar figures for several of those programs – including a massive $26 million boost to the Loan Repayment Program for Mental Health Professionals (a proposed $28 million for 2024-25 as compared to $2 million in the current budget) and a larger commitment to the Nursing Shortage Reduction Fund ($46.8 million proposed, an increase of more than $18 million).
“We support the additional dollars you’ve put into [the nursing shortage] fund and would support taking it up to at least $65 million,” Banda told the committee. “We are turning away qualified nursing school applicants at our schools, and our health care system has jobs waiting to be filled. Increasing the pipeline of nurses addresses this bottleneck directly.”
Her two-minute statement also expressed THA’s support for proposed funding increases for the Nursing Faculty Loan Repayment Program and for graduate medical education. Banda also advocated for additional funding for preceptorships at hospitals, which would encourage more nurses to serve in that role.
THA will testify again Tuesday before the same committee, when Assistant General Counsel Heather De La Garza, J.D., will deliver comments on the Texas Workforce Commission’s programs to increase health care workforce supply.
Select Health Care Panel Headlines House Committees
A bit of a curveball for hospital advocates came out of the House of Representatives’ committee assignments Wednesday as House Speaker Dade Phelan assigned a Select Committee on Health Care Reform. THA staff expect this select committee to handle much of the legislation that will affect hospitals during this session.
Speaker Phelan gave the committee a wide range of focus areas, including reducing the impact of “excessive” health care costs on the effectiveness of health plans, improving the affordability of care and prescription drugs, and improving access to comprehensive and affordable care.
Leading the select health care panel will be Rep. Sam Harless (R-Spring) as chair and Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) as vice chair. A pair of physician-legislators occupy spots on the committee’s roster, which includes:
- Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood);
- Rep. John Bucy (D-Austin);
- Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls);
- Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth);
- Rep. Eddie Morales (D-Eagle Pass);
- Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress);
- Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo);
- Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas); and
- Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston).
Some of these House members will serve in leadership positions on other committees whose work will be central to hospitals’ legislative agenda. In fact, several will chair the same hospital-relevant committees that they did in 2021, including:
- Rep. Klick, again picked as chair of the Committee on Public Health;
- Rep. Bonnen, returning as chair of the Committee on Appropriations, which has jurisdiction over the budget;
- Rep. Frank, once again tapped as chair of the Committee on Human Services; and
- Rep. Oliverson, who will serve another session at the helm of the Committee on Insurance.
THA will also keep close watch on the Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety, which will include a focus on youth behavioral health services.