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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE STARTS BUDGET DEBATE WITH HEALTH CARE

The Senate Finance Committee took public testimony most of last week on Article II — the section of the budget that deals with state health care services. Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs told the committee that you can’t cut Medicaid without affecting the patients it serves or the physicians who provide the service. He called on lawmakers not to cut payment by 10 percent for primary care and specialty physicians who treat children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Instead he offered up a cut of only 2 percent. Other physician services still would be subject to the proposed 10-percent reduction.

Commissioner Suehs also asked lawmakers to restore funding for the Medicaid physician loan repayment program and the children’s Medicaid medical home pilot. These TMA physicians testified:

  • Janet Realini, MD, a San Antonio family physician, discussed how the Women’s Health Program has a proven track record of reducing unplanned pregnancies and lowering costs.
  • Austin pediatrician John Hellerstedt, MD, urged the committee not to force physicians out of Medicaid. Instead of cutting physician payments, he said, a better way to slow Medicaid spending is for the state to support development of payment and delivery system reforms, such as the patient-centered medical home and physician-led accountable care organizations.

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