A bid to expand health coverage for low-income Texans failed in the Texas House last week, 80-68.
State leaders have long opposed expanding the Medicaid program, which is largely funded by the federal government. The measure that failed last week would have allowed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to negotiate a funding agreement with the feds, called a 1115 demonstration waiver, that would cover more uninsured Texans without technically expanding Medicaid, according to various media sources, including the Texas Tribune.
Just over a week ago, the Biden administration rescinded a federal 1115 waiver approved in the final days of the Trump administration which would have provided the state billions of dollars over the next decade to cover emergency care for uninsured Texans.
The state was exempted from the normal public notice process, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Gov. Abbott blasted that decision, saying it “obstructed healthcare access for vulnerable Texans.”
Backers of healthcare expansion are pinning their waning hopes on House Bill 3871, sponsored by Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton.
Her bill also uses an 1115 waiver to attract federal funding to expand Medicaid eligibility as well as increase Medicaid reimbursements to doctors, according to the Tribune.
If that bill fails to pass, Texas officials will have to begin renegotiating with the Biden administration to restore the funding. More than 650,000 Texans lost their employer-sponsored insurance during the pandemic. Texas has the highest number and highest percentage of uninsured residents in the nation, according to the Texas Comptroller’s Office.
Vaccine ad campaign begins
A $1.5 million television and radio ad campaign was launched last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services to encourage Texans to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The ads, in both English and Spanish, feature several doctors urging folks to get the vaccine, as the pace of shots administered has slowed.
“Our research shows that individual health care professionals are the most trusted voices for people deciding whether to get vaccinated,” said DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt.
“Over the coming weeks we will continue to share messages encouraging various communities to get vaccinated. We are also relying on trusted voices within those communities to speak up and let their neighbors know that the available COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to end the pandemic and restore normalcy.”
Vaccine doses over 10 million mark
The number of Texans who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10.56 million as of Sunday, according to DSHS. The number of folks who are fully vaccinated hit 7.11 million, which is about 24 percent of the state’s population.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Texas rose slightly last week compared to the previous week, to 23,684, with new deaths dropping slightly at 359, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.
Similarly, lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals was at 2,793 for the same period, down slightly from the previous week, according to DSHS.
Texas lifts pause on J&J vaccine
Vaccine providers in Texas can resume using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, DSHS announced.
The Centers for Disease Control paused use of the one-dose vaccine in mid-April after 15 cases of blood clots were identified, primarily in women between 18 and 49. That’s out of more than 7 million shots administered nationally.