Multiple bills filed with emphasis on expanding health care in Texas
Special to The Dallas Examiner
FARMERS BRANCH – This week State Rep. Julie Johnson filed three bills – HB410, HB440 and HB522 – as she continues her work in the legislature to improve the lives of Texas families.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the glaring problems within our health care system. While the Republicans in state leadership are focused on rolling back coverage for millions of people, I remain fully committed to the health and well-being of all Texans,” Johnson stated. “During the 87th legislative session, we must also focus on supporting bills that put Texans back to work in safe, COVID-free environments so that our local economy gets back on the right track and our children can be properly educated.”
House Bill 410 focuses on decreasing the barriers that health insurance companies put up in order to receive state-mandated coverage. The Texas Insurance Code specifies certain mandated benefits that certain health plans must cover. This is to ensure that there is some level of coverage for the patient’s premium dollar. However, barriers to patient care, such as prior authorization, can still occur even with state-mandated coverage. In HB 410 the following mandated benefits, prior authorization may not be required: mammography, mastectomy and breast reconstruction or prosthesis, diabetes management, low bone mass test for osteoporosis prevention, and prostate cancer screenings. As all of these are required to be covered by insurance carriers, prior authorization is an unnecessary barrier to patient care and a misuse of time the physician could otherwise spend with patients.
House Bill 440 prohibits a health benefit plan from denying the full benefit of a claim for a hearing aid if the device is more than the benefit available. Under current Texas law, insurance companies are required to cover hearing aids for children. Nonetheless, particular health insurance plans do not provide the patient with the option to select an improved hearing aid device. Even if the patient wishes to pay for the difference between what the insurance plan will cover and what the chosen hearing aid might cost, the insurance plan will not allow them to use their benefits. This bill attempts to rectify this for patients.
House Bill 522 makes permanent the COVID waivers that expanded access to telemedicine and will ensure that physicians are reimbursed at the same rate as an in-person visit. The bill expands telemedicine coverage and creates pay parity for health care professionals utilizing telemedicine. The idea came from emergency rules created out of the COVID-19 pandemic to remove barriers to telemedicine. This has allowed health care professionals to continue safely treating and diagnosing patients during a pandemic. This pandemic has exacerbated the health care issues in our state and HB 422 will encourage physicians to continue offering telemedicine services and help to increase access for patients across Texas.