Texas holds public comment period on controversial Medicaid waiver

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 9:12 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) allowed the public to weigh in on Wednesday on a 10-year, multi-billion dollar Medicaid waiver it previously negotiated in the final days of the Trump administration.

Texas uses the waiver, in large part, to reimburse hospitals that provide care to uninsured Texans, instead of expanding the number of Texans eligible for Medicaid coverage in the first place.

In April, the Biden administration rescinded the waiver agreement because Texas did not hold a public comment period, which is required by law.

HHSC plans to hold two more public comment periods on June 10 and June 15.

The commission has said it plans to resubmit the original 10-year agreement to the Biden administration after the three comment periods.

During the comment period on Wednesday, multiple participants urged the state to consider expanding Medicaid as it resubmits its waiver agreement.

“Part of this waiver is providing a funding stream for hospitals to offset what they pay when they provide care to uninsured Texans,” Tiffany Hogue, the policy director of the Texas Organizing Project, told KWTX.

“A more effective — both cost effective and more efficient care — is that we expand Medicaid and give people access to primary care where they can catch things earlier,” she said.

Others urged the state to advance the waiver as quickly as possible.

“We’re looking at 300,000 individuals unable to continue services and about $366 million to come out of the public mental health system,” Shannon Hoffman, the policy program specialist at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, told KWTX.

She said that, if an agreement on the waiver is not reached, funding for some of the state’s public mental health programs could disappear.

The Texas Legislature declined to expand Medicaid this legislative session.

Last month, Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration over its decision to rescind the waiver saying that the decision was motivated by politics.

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