“The Key Concern”: THA Talks Workforce Funding in House Committee
Budget talks continued in earnest at the Texas Legislature last week now that both houses have established their committees for this session. THA made an appearance Tuesday on each side of the Capitol, supporting healthy budget allocations in both Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1 – but also letting lawmakers know hospitals would support even greater funding for important initiatives.
First, Assistant General Counsel Heather De La Garza, J.D., appeared before the House Appropriations Committee as it examined HB 1’s funding for the Higher Education Coordinating Board. Within the bill are “significant dollars that focus directly on our extreme health care workforce shortages,” De La Garza told the committee. “Addressing these workforce challenges is the key concern for every hospital and every community across our big state, and we strongly support your efforts to grow our health care workforce.”
But supporting the initial funding bill doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement as talks continue. In noting THA’s support for the bill’s substantial increase for the Nursing Shortage Reduction Program – which would receive $46.8 million for 2024-25 – De La Garza added THA would support an increase to at least $65 million.
Senate Finance Testimony: Standing Up for Rural Hospitals
The possibility of more funding than the budget proposal supplies came up again later that day in the Senate Finance Committee. Jennifer Banda, J.D., THA’s senior vice president of advocacy and public policy, appeared there to support Senate Bill 1’s proposed funding for health and human services. Among other THA-approved dollar figures, SB 1 would maintain the current funding for $500 add-on payments for rural labor and delivery services ($8 million). But after testimony by John Henderson of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals resulted in a conversation between him and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) about possibly doling out more for those add-on payments, Banda expressed support for doing so.
As written, SB 1 would maintain level funding for rural outpatient, safety-net and trauma add-ons. Banda noted cost-based payments for rural hospitals are “critical today as we come out of the pandemic with our rural hospitals seeing an increasing financial risk.” Among other comments, she also noted THA’s support for 12 months of postpartum Medicaid coverage for new mothers, and for more contracted inpatient psychiatric beds, the latter of which is included in the budget proposal. Banda also voiced THA’s support for a rate bump to encourage the addition of more beds in communities across the state.
Facts Over Fiction: New THA White Paper Sets the Record Straight
The conversation around hospitals and their health in the post-COVID-19 world has become a wealth of misinformation, with damaging fiction advanced and accepted as fact in the minds of far too many. With so much at stake in the current session, THA debunks those myths in its new white paper, The Facts: Texas Hospitals Work to Stabilize Amid Harmful Mistruths.
Have you heard someone say, for instance, that hospitals’ profits soared because of federal relief payments during the pandemic? Point them to The Facts, where THA explains that those relief payments stopped flowing in late 2021, and last year Texas hospitals lost more than $3 billion. Hospitals are dominating contract negotiations with payers and driving up costs? Hardly – three private insurers control 84% of the market – giving those health plans supreme bargaining power and dramatic profits as a result.