By CHARLES MILLER
With each passing year, access to affordable health care is a barrier to more and more Texas families and a greater strain on employers’ budgets. The Texas Legislature is taking steps to address this through innovative, bipartisan action to foster competition, create more transparency and encourage a healthy market for health care.
House Bill 711, by state Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls and co-authored by state Reps. Sam Harless, R-Spring, Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood and James Talarico, D-Round Rock, passed the Texas House last week on a 146-0 vote.
It seeks to address a leading cause of higher prices – an unhealthy market consisting of high market concentrations and business practices that limit choices and innovation.
Currently, the total cost of employer-sponsored insurance averages $22,000 per year, which is nearly one-third of the median household income in Texas. These rising costs can be attributed, in part, to Texas’ hospital market consolidation, which is well above the national average.
HB 711 is just one piece of a package of health care bills designed to make the state’s health care markets healthy through a more informed, competitive and engaging system.
Other bills under consideration in the Legislature offer innovative approaches to creating healthy markets: expanding existing price transparency requirements, improving the availability of information on provider quality, empowering patients to be smart shoppers, and rewarding them when they are.
Texans deserve access to affordable, high-quality health care, and the Legislature is taking important steps toward making this a reality. This package of bills aims to provide Texans with choices and enough information to make a good choice, while ensuring that they’re rewarded for doing so. Given the potential benefit these efforts will have on everyday Texans, we hope more people will be able to engage in the conversations around health care reform.
The bills under consideration would help improve the three requirements for healthy markets: transparent information, abundant competition and aligned incentives. The bills under consideration address all these issues and offer a path forward toward affordable, high-quality health care for all Texans.
The 88th legislature has an opportunity to build upon existing price transparency requirements, eliminate restrictions preventing disclosure of quality information, address the growing impact of consolidation and market power, and limit the potential of private equity to add hidden fees to your bill.
Lawmakers can also ensure when health benefit plans encourage enrollees to obtain a health care service from a particular provider that they do so for the primary benefit of the enrollee.
Over the years, Texas legislators have been adopting measures around hospital price transparency and the elimination of surprise medical bills. Prioritizing healthy markets is the single most important thing the state can do to help empower employers to provide more affordable health care for their employees during this legislative session.
Learn more about healthy markets at https://www.texas2036.org/healthy-markets.
Charles Miller is a senior policy advisor for Texas 2036 where he works to improve the affordability and accessibility of health care for all Texans.