Health Care

Capital Tonight: Dual Decisions Bring Health Care Law Back into Question

The fate of the Affordable Care Act is once again in the hands of the courts. A federal appeals court dealt a critical blow to a key component of Obamacare Tuesday. Then, just hours later, another panel ruled to keep the law in tact.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we explained how the decisions could put subsidies for health insurance at risk and what that could mean for nearly 600,000 Texans counting on them.


The surge of immigrant children continues, while Congressional action is delayed another day.
We spoke to Congressman Roger Williams about whether any legislative answer has a chance of passing.


Plus, Gov. Rick Perry has officially called in the cavalry to help DPS officials at the Texas-Mexico border. Is the move a practical solution or political stunt? Political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi weighed in on that question and more.



Capital Tonight: Taking a closer look at Texas enrollment numbers

With just days left to start enrolling, the eyes of federal health officials are on Texas. In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is making one last push in Austin, and why the state is so important for the law’s success.


Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News and Erica Grieder of Texas Monthly joined us to talk about the week’s biggest takeaways, from a significant ruling on abortion law to a continued fight over fair pay legislation.


Plus, Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas joined us to take a closer look at one claim about the cost of a health care plan in Texas, along with a surprising take on Senator Ted Cruz’s travel history.

Capital Tonight: Land commissioner details oil spill containment efforts

The clock is counting down for those who haven’t already tried to enroll for health insurance. White House officials say more than six million Americans have signed up under the Affordable Care Act, marking a milestone for the Obama administration heading into the March 31 deadline.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at a marathon effort to get people signed up in East Austin over the span of 36 hours, non-stop.


Of course, federal officials have since announced a major exception to the original deadline —one that has critics of the law fuming. Our Capital Commentators explored the political fallout from the latest delay, and they reacted to a new federal court ruling that upholds the abortion restrictions passed last summer.


Crews on the coast are moving quickly to stop the spread of a massive oil spill in Galveston Bay. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson joined us with the latest on how his agency is helping coordinate the response.

Medicare Releases List of Best and Worst Hospitals For Hip And Knee Surgery

For the first time, Medicare is ranking how well hospitals perform hip and knee replacement surgeries.

The Affordable Care Act lays out financial incentives for doctors and hospitals to provide better care, and the newly released “best and worst” list is part of that larger effort.

Kaiser Health News explains how the list was compiled:

It evaluated how often a hospital’s patients ended up being readmitted within 30 days of discharge. It also looked at how often patients suffered a serious complication after the operation, such as a blood clot, infection, problem with the artificial joint or death.

While Medicare rated most hospitals as average, it identified 95 hospitals with rates that were higher than the national average in one of the two categories, and 97 hospitals with rates that were lower than average. Those outlier hospitals are listed in the sortable table below. A dash (—) indicates the hospital had average performance for that indicator.

Close to a million people get hip or knee replacements each year. Here’s how hospitals in Texas fared:


Baptist St Anthony’s Hospital Amarillo TX Worse
Christus Santa Rosa Hospital San Antonio TX Better
Christus St Michael Health System Texarkana TX Worse
Covenant Medical Center Lubbock TX Better
Doctors Hospital At Renaissance Edinburg TX Better
Grace Medical Center Lubbock TX Better
Houston Orthopedic And Spine Hospital Bellaire TX Worse
Peterson Regional Medical Center Kerrville TX Worse Worse
Plaza Medical Center Of Fort Worth Fort Worth TX Better
Quail Creek Surgical Hospital Amarillo TX Better
Seton Medical Center Austin Austin TX Better
Shannon Medical Center San Angelo TX Worse Worse
St Joseph Regional Health Center Bryan TX Worse
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas Dallas TX Better
Vhs Harlingen Hospital Company Llc Harlingen TX Better Better
Woodland Heights Medical Center Lufkin TX Worse

Click here for the full list.

It seems hospitals, upon close inspection, don’t always live up to their reputations.

Report: Perry willing to accept $100 million in Affordable Care Act funds

Gov. Rick Perry is negotiating with the Obama administration to accept Affordable Care Act money. As first reported by Politicostate health aides are in negotiations with the Obama administration to work out a deal that would allow the state to collect $100 million of Affordable Care Act money.

The federal funds would come from Community First Choice option, which is aimed at improving in-home services for disabled and elderly patients. The legislature approved the program this session. Now, according to Politico, Perry is asking the Obama administration to provide matching funds. About 12,000 Texans would benefit from the expansion.

The move comes as a surprise to many, as Gov. Perry has been one of the most outspoken critics of President Obama’s health care overhaul plan. He has repeatedly vowed that the state would not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and has repeatedly called it a “broken system.”

Perry spokesman Josh Havens says Texas has provided these types of services via medicaid waivers for decades. He issued this statement:

“Long before Obamacare was forced on the American people, Texas was implementing policies to provide those with intellectual disabilities more community options to enable them to live more independent lives at a lower cost to taxpayers. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will continue to move forward with these policies because they are right for our citizens and our state, regardless of whatever funding schemes may be found in Obamacare.”


Texas nonprofits secure grants to promote health care overhaul

Texas-based nonprofits will receive nearly $11 million to help inform the public about changes coming as part of the Affordable Care Act. Many parts of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul take effect October 1. Starting then, everyone will be required to sign up for health care coverage, either through a private insurance company or a government plan. Texans will be able to enroll for coverage in the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, as Texas declined to set up its own insurance exchange.

The federal grants announced today were awarded to so-called Health Overhaul Navigators. Those groups volunteered to advertise coming changes and sign people up for health insurance. The money is part of a larger $67 million grant, which was distributed to organizations across the country.

“Navigators will be among the many resources available to help consumers understand their coverage options in the Marketplace,” said Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “A network of volunteers on the ground in every state – health care providers, business leaders, faith leaders, community groups, advocates, and local elected officials – can help spread the word and encourage their neighbors to get enrolled.”

Today’s announcement comes a week after Sebelius visited Texas to tout the president’s plan. She met with state and local leaders in Austin and San Antonio to help communities understand how the changes will affect them.

Yesterday, Attorney General Greg Abbott and 13 other Attorneys General signed sent a letter to HHS, raising privacy concerns. In a statement, Abbott said:

 “Over the next few weeks, the Obama administration plans to dole out millions of taxpayer dollars to so-called ‘navigators’ who will be paid to help Americans navigate the Obamacare behemoth. Because these navigators will be granted substantial access to Americans’ personal information – including their Social Security numbers and tax information – I am deeply concerned about privacy and the security of this very sensitive information.”

Dems announce grim outlook for Medicaid expansion

House Democrats called a last-minute press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce that if Medicaid expansion isn’t quite dead, it’s certainly on life support.

Yesterday, Republican Rep. John Zerwas conceded that his “Texas solution” to draw down federal money under the Affordable Care Act remains stuck in the House Calendars Committee, with little chance of escape. Any bill the committee hasn’t assigned to a hearing on the House floor by midnight Thursday is unlikely to get a vote.

 Rep. Sylvester Turner has proposed a different plan to expand Medicaid, which faces a similar fate.

“Unless we know some way to resurrect the dead, it won’t be resurrected this session,” Rep. Turner said.

More >

Capital Tonight: Political family legacy

In his first speech since announcing his candidacy for Texas Land Commissioner, George P. Bush played it safe, touting Texas exceptionalism and support for military veterans, among other topics.

Reporter Roundtable

Emily Ramshaw from the Texas Tribune, Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report, and Colin Pope from the Austin Business Journal sat down to discuss this week’s events in politics, including Gov. Rick Perry’s discussion with the Shark Tank about his intentions to run for governor.

Federal Funds

Democratic Rep. Elliott Naishtat sat down with Paul Brown to give an update on the possibility of Medicaid expansion in Texas. Naishtat also discussed a bill to extend health benefits to domestic partners at state university.


Medicaid IOU bill passes unanimously

The Texas House of Representatives has passed a measure to fund Medicaid through the end of the year. Lawmakers voted unanimously to approve the $6.6 billion emergency spending bill Tuesday. The legislation also covers the $1.7 billion that’s owed to public schools.

The state found itself in this situation after a decision by the state legislature in 2011 to only fund Medicaid for 18 months. It was their way of balancing the budget in the midst of a massive budget shortfall last session.

The legislation passed just two days before funds would have been cut off to medical providers. The measure now heads to Gov. Rick Perry for his signature.


Capital Tonight: Debating Medicaid expansion

Hundreds of activists rallied outside the Texas Capitol Thursday, as part of Planned Parenthood lobbying day.

This year’s efforts had particular urgency, now that the organization has been cut out of the state’s Women’s Health Program. A bill making its way through the House aims to reverse that decision and bring back federal and state funding.


Debating Medicaid

Another question looming the 83rd Legislative Session is this: Should Texas expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act?

Proponents say it would pull down billions in federal dollars to help the uninsured. Critics, including the governor, say it forces Texas to spend too much money on a program that needs serious reform.

We spoke to John Davidson from the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Anne Dunkleberg from the Center for Public Policy Priorities about the research behind the debate.

After the filibuster

Sen. Rand Paul’s nearly 13-hour filibuster Wednesday made national headlines. It also resulted in a new bill, proposed by Sen. Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, that would explicitly outlaw a drone killing on U.S. soil of an American citizen who doesn’t represent an imminent threat. 

Our Capital Commentators weighed in on the significance of the filibuster and the proposed bill.

Click the image below to watch Thursday’s full episode.