As recent rains across much of East Texas brought cooler temperatures, things were heating up at your State Capitol here in Austin. Health care was a prominent topic of conversation as the Texas House cast a variety of votes toward addressing the needs of Texans.
Ground ambulance service. A number of my colleagues and I were recently made aware of the Health and Human Services Commission’s proposal to cut Medicaid payments for a significant number of ground ambulance services across the state.
Ambulances provide vital 911 services, especially in rural districts like ours. Often, ground ambulances serve as the only means for a rural community to access emergency medical care. Further, many EMS agencies in Texas already operate on slim margins, and when they are unable to recover the operating costs through payments made by government and commercial health insurance plans, they must turn to local taxpayers to pick up the balance.
Otherwise, EMS agencies are forced to make difficult cuts, such as reducing staff and serviceable ambulances. These operational reductions not only lead to slower response times, but also limit access to care in already underserved areas.
As the representative of a district that could be negatively impacted by the cuts that HHSC is proposing, I helped draft a letter expressing concern with the proposal that was set forth. This letter has garnered the support of more than 40 of my House colleagues, which I believe sends a strong message that these proposed cuts could have a devastating impact on rural Texas.
Special session legislation. In other news, the House recently voted to provide critical funding for speech, occupational and physical therapy services for children in Texas. These young Texans are among our state’s most vulnerable children, often needing around-the-clock care to ensure their safety and well-being.
With a unanimous vote, the House showed that we believe further restoring services for these children should be part of what we accomplish during this special session. I was proud to support the bill, House Bill 25, and I’m hopeful that our colleagues in the Senate will join our effort to help these children in need.
Additionally, the Texas House approved legislation that would continue the Maternal Mortality Morbidity Task Force. The task force will review cases of pregnancy-related deaths and make recommendations to help reduce the incidence of pregnancy-related deaths in Texas.
This task force was created in 2013 and was set to expire in 2019 absent any action by the 85th Legislature. After legislation continuing the task force had failed to pass during the regular session, the governor added the continuation and expansion of the task force to the call, allowing the Legislature another opportunity to address this critical public health issue.
Reminders: The mobile office is back on the road in August and looks forward to seeing you around the district. Here’s this month’s schedule: from 9-11 a.m. Aug. 16 at the Houston County Courthouse in Crockett, or from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton; and from 9-11 a.m. Aug. 23 at the San Augustine County Courthouse in San Augustine.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office if we can help you in any way.
Trent Ashby is the Texas State Representative for District 57 that includes Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine and Trinity counties. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He and his staff are available during the week at (512) 463-0508 or 634-2762.