Texas to submit waiver application to extend Medicaid services

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Health and Human Services Commission plans to resubmit an 1115 waiver extension application to prolong Medicare and Medicaid services for 10 years, allowing it to run through 2030.

Earlier this month, Texas sued the Biden administration after it rescinded a Medicaid waiver extension originally put in place by the Trump administration.

Some have speculated the denial was an effort by the Biden administration to force Texas into more permanently expanding Medicaid coverage as the Affordable Care Act intended.

The waiver allows the state to use federal and state funding to run its Texas Healthcare Transformation and Quality Improvement Program, which many Medicaid programs operate out of.

The same day, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services heard a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers in Texas from 60 days after giving birth to 12 months.

“It is the good and right thing to do… and it does protect children, the unborn children, and then postpartum,” State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) said, as she laid out HB 133 to the committee Wednesday.

The bill, authored by Democratic Rep. Toni Rose of Dallas, has bipartisan support. It’s one of the only Medicaid expansion bills that has a chance of surviving this session.

“I think that’s obviously a great step. But what happens after 12 months? We still have parents who are not covered, and kids who are not covered,” Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Dallas) said. She’s disappointed her bill that would have expanded Medicaid coverage never got a hearing this session, even with multiple Republican lawmakers signaling support ahead of time.

She and other Democrats said HB 133 is not enough on its own and leaves millions without coverage.

State Rep. John Bucy III (D – Cedar Park) has been pushing for broader expansion for years.

“That would be about 2.2 million Texans, these are working Texans, who right now make too much money under the old system under the current Medicaid level that we have in Texas, but with this expansion, they would get caught up in,” Rep. Bucy said Wednesday, adding that an extension to the waiver is also not sufficient.

“We’re doing some reimbursement with the waiver to people who help care for the uninsured, but we’re not getting extra coverage. So we’re not doing what we need to do,” Rep. Bucy said.

Texas has been depending on the waiver since the Affordable Care Act became law a decade ago and has been granted three extensions since then. It was originally meant as a temporary safety net, but Republicans have been leaning on it to oppose full expansion.

“It was never permanent, it was only meant as a temporary solution, while states got their act together and expanded Medicaid. If that goes away, then we’re sunk,” Democrat Mike Collier, who plans to run against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick next year, said Wednesday.

“Republicans oppose the Affordable Care Act, they saw it as an inappropriate extension of federal authority into health care, have long defended the state’s prerogatives and setting Medicaid benefit levels at its own discretion,” Texas Politics Project director Jim Henson explained.

The Texas Hospital Association supports both the renewal of the waiver, and the permanent expansion of Medicaid coverage in Texas. The organization said the two can work hand in hand.

The state will now be trying to amend the waiver to get approval from the federal government before the current waiver expires in 2022.

HHSC is planning to hold public hearings on the waiver application in June. There will be two dates for both in-person and virtual meetings.

June 2 at 10 a.m. – UT Southwestern Medical Center, T. Boone Pickens Building, Auditorium (6001 Forest Park Road, Dallas). Virtual attendees register online here.

June 15 at 10 a.m. – Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Brown-Heatly Building, Public Hearing Room (4900 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin) Virtual attendees register online here.

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