AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A bill to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms in Texas cleared a major hurdle on Wednesday when it was given initial approval by the Texas House.
House Bill 133, authored by State Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, would expand Medicaid coverage for new moms from two months to a full year after birth. This change, which Rose has championed for several years, comes after a recommendation from the state’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Commission.
“Women without comprehensive health care is the number one cause of death amongst women after pregnancy,” Rose said. “This legislation will save lives.”
HB 133, which has bipartisan support and was passed to engrossment Wednesday 116-29, is part of a legislative package of about a dozen healthcare bills backed by Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, dubbed Healthy Families, Healthy Texas. Four of them got the initial green light Wednesday.
“Today, the Texas House made great strides in improving the health outcomes for citizens across the Lone Star State with the passage of House Bills 4,18, 133, and 290,” Phelan said in a statement. “This transformative legislation will expand availability of health services to all Texans, create savings in prescription drug costs, protect maternal health, and cut red tape involved in providing coverage for our vulnerable children.”
“With this slate of legislation, I am confident that citizens across our state will find the care they need, when they need it,” he added. I am proud of the hard work and dedication of my House colleagues in ensuring health care in our state remains accessible and affordable for all 29 million Texans.”
According to state Medicaid enrollment data, HB133 would benefit more than 130,000 Texas moms each year.
But that could come at a financial cost.
HB 133 would cost nearly $84 million during the 2022-23 biennium, and more than $175 million in the 2024-25 biennium, according to a fiscal analysis by the Legislative Budget Board.
More than two-dozen Republicans voted no on HB 133. State Rep. Justin Holland, R-Heath, was one of them. He cited financial concerns and argued Texas women could benefit from state resources in other ways.
“HB 133 may not adequately address the state’s maternal mortality and morbidity program, and pregnant women in Texas could be better served if time and resources were spent on other solutions,” Holland said in a statement.
“Over the last several years, Texas has focused a considerable amount of attention and resources on the number of Texas women who die due to health issues arising during pregnancy or in the postpartum period, and programs like Healthy Texas Women have already been implemented to address these issues,” he continued.
“Providing more services over a longer period of time may not adequately address the maternal mortality and morbidity issue, the causes of which are not definitively known, and could cost the state time and money that may be better spent addressing other potential factors contributing to this issue,” Holland concluded.
But new mother Claudia Nungaray said access to Medicaid was critical for her during and after her pregnancy.
“I applied for Medicaid, when I first found out I was pregnant and it definitely was a big help from the very beginning,” Nungaray said.
The first-time mom relied on Medicaid coverage to address mental health challenges and high blood pressure. Medicaid also helped cover costs for her doctor’s visits during pregnancy and follow ups after her son, Kael, was born in November.
Typically, Texas moms lose Medicaid coverage two months after giving birth, but federal COVID waivers prevent these women from getting kicked off insurance coverage during the pandemic. That waiver allowed Nungaray to stay covered and access the care she needs.
“Having the assurance that the Medicaid is there for me, even throughout the first year of my son’s life, I think is something that any mom can benefit from,” she explained.
HB 133 faces a final House vote on Thursday. If passed, it would then head to the Senate.
“There are some concerns but we’re working them out,” Rose acknowledged. “The good thing about it this legislative session, we were able to get the bill at the House earlier. So now I can have time to go, you know, talk with the senators, as I’ve been doing already, and so I’ve been able to get some support, but I need to continue that.”