Bill of the Week
Naishtat files bill to protect juvenile medical care
By Richard Whittaker, Fri., May 15, 2015
House Bill 839
Author: Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin
Filed: Jan 21. Passed by House: May 11
This is when some lawmakers earn their money, Austin Rep. Elliott Naishtat half-joked across the brass rail at the back of the House Chamber. With every day critical in passing a bill before the end of the session, he was working hard to salvage HB 839, a simple fix that ensures some kids will keep their health benefits.
Currently, if a child on CHIP or Medicaid goes into a juvenile detention facility, their medical benefits are immediately terminated. That means when they come out, they have to re-apply, so they can be without insurance for a month. As Naishtat noted, many of these kids may have medical or behavioral issues that require treatment, or that may even have been a factor in their original offense. That one-month gap could be extremely damaging to them. Naishtat's proposal simply changes that termination to suspension; as the children will be presumed to be eligible for those same benefits upon exit, that coverage gap simply disappears.
This seems like a simple fix, but, due to the opposition of groups like the Texas Association of Business, the bill failed on third vote, 65-74. Cue some serious legwork from Naishtat and House Republican Caucus Chair Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, who got the measure back on the agenda. With only one hour's notice, they convinced the House holdouts to pass it 140-0, and now it heads to the Senate.
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