The Regular Session of the 85th Legislature ended on May 29, 2017. Just over a week later, Gov. Greg Abbott called for a Special Session to take place this summer. State lawmakers will return to Austin next week, on Tuesday, July 18th, to address the 20 issues included on the Governor’s Special Session call.
Among the issues to be considered, is must-pass “sunset” legislation, including the Texas Medical Board, which licenses doctors across the state. Also included is legislation to extend the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force.
85th REGULAR SESSION IN REVIEW
I am pleased to announce that some advances in women’s health were made as part of the state budget process. Several riders were added to the budget that provide:
- Access to Highly Effective Methods of Contraception
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) shall implement program policies to increase access to Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptions (LARCs) and develop provider education and training to increase access to LARCs.
- Postpartum Depression Services
HHSC shall seek federal funds for the screening and treatment of postpartum depression pursuant to the 21st Century Cures Act.
- Texas Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement
The Office, in coordination with the Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity, shall study trends, rates, or disparities in pregnancy-related deaths, evaluate options for reducing maternal mortality, focusing on the most prevalent causes identified in the Task Force’s biennial report, and for treating postpartum depression in economically disadvantaged women.
- Prioritization of Behavioral Health Treatment for Pregnant Women
HHSC shall seek to educate the public and behavioral health service providers that pregnant women and women with dependent children are a priority population for services funded through the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.
- Access to Long-Acting Reversible Contraception Strategic Plan
HHSC shall develop a five-year strategic plan to reduce barriers for Medicaid recipients and those with and without health benefit plan coverage who may be eligible forHealthy Texas Women, Family Planning Program, or CHIP, perinatal to access LARC.The strategic plan shall include the following:
— A review of LARC eligibility identifying the potential costs, challenges, and benefits of eligibility and identify methods for covering, defraying, or minimizing those costs;– Identification of barriers to accessing LARC relating to reimbursement and billing procedures;
— Methods for developing and expanding partnerships with public and private entities to increase public and provider education, training, and awareness of LARC; and
— Recommendations to the Texas Legislature regarding policy changes and funding needed to implement the strategic plan.
HHSC shall collaborate with the Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers and Babies to develop the five-year strategic plan. HHSC shall submit the five-year strategic plan to the Legislative Budget Board and Governor by November 1, 2018 and post the five-year strategic plan to the agency’s webpage.
Two important individual bills related to women’s healthcare also passed:
- HB 2466 (Rep. Sarah Davis), relating to coverage for certain services related to maternal depression under the Medicaid and child health plan programs.
- SB 1599 (Sen. Borris Miles), relating to maternal mortality reporting and investigation information.
We will keep a vigilant watch during the upcoming Special Session on legislation that impacts the health of Texas women and the practice of the physicians who care for them.