Feb. 6, 2023

Each week during the 2023 session of the Texas Legislature, The Scope’s Cap Recap will take a quick look at the previous week’s most hospital-relevant news under the Pink Dome in Austin.


THA’s First Budget Testimony Coming Tuesday

Another Texas legislative session, another brutal winter storm grinding business to a halt at the Capitol.

Winter Storm Mara – as the latest storm was unofficially named by the Weather Channel – may not have been as widespread or devastating as Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. But last week’s sequel that no one asked for did plenty of damage and caused plenty of disruption, including forcing the postponement of THA’s first chance to testify in committee during the young session.

That opportunity was slated for the Feb. 2 meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, focusing on the health and human services section of the state budget. It’s been rescheduled for Feb. 21, meaning it will end up being THA’s third appearance of the month to discuss budget matters.

THA’s first testimony of this session will instead come Tuesday, Feb. 7, when the committee will take comments on education-related budget matters. THA’s comments will focus on the importance of funding the state’s health care education system and boosting the state’s struggling health care workforce pipeline.

Workforce will again be on THA’s mind when it testifies Feb. 14 on the business and economic development portions of the budget. That hearing will include an examination of the Texas Workforce Commission, and THA plans to speak TWC’s programs to grow the state’s health care personnel.

Key Bills Filed on White-Bagging, Hospital-at-Home

Lawmakers attuned to what hospitals need to thrive continued bringing THA’s wide-ranging legislative agenda to life in recent days, with key bills filed to prohibit “white-bagging” and to allow Texas hospitals to operate hospital-at-home programs even in non-pandemic times.

In the care-delaying and even potentially dangerous health insurer tactic known as white-bagging, health plans require drugs to be purchased through their own exclusive specialty pharmacy, then ship the drugs to pharmacies at the patient’s treatment location to be re-dispensed. That’s particularly detrimental in the case of cancer and other complex or life-threatening conditions, which sometimes require last-minute dosage adjustments that white-bagging precludes. THA-backed House Bill 1647 by Rep. Cody Harris, filed on Jan. 25, would prohibit white-bagging for patients with “a chronic, complex, rare, or life-threatening medical condition.”

Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond) officially took the baton for hospital-at-home care Friday, filing House Bill 1890. It allows for hospitals to permanently operate a hospital-at-home program upon receiving approval from both the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Texas and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and requires HHSC to establish minimum standards to operate such a program. Those standards would have to be “at least as stringent” as those under CMS’s Acute Hospital Care at Home waiver program, which allows the pursuit of waivers to operate such programs. The CMS program was originally tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency but has now been extended through the end of 2024.