AUSTIN – Texas State Representative Lina Ortega filed 16 bills today, the first day that lawmakers can file bills for the 87th Legislative Session. The session begins January 12, 2021.
"Though I filed several bills today, all of which are important to House District 77, I would like to highlight some priority bills in the subject areas of healthcare and gun safety," Ortega said.
• H.B. 98 extends Medicaid coverage for at least 12 months postpartum. Currently, Texas Medicaid coverage for pregnant women ends 60 days postpartum. This time period is not sufficient, because many postpartum illnesses arise after 60 days. This premature loss of healthcare coverage leaves many women without the care they need during the time when they are more likely to develop potentially life-threatening conditions. The Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee has identified extending Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum as a significant policy change that would allow the treatment of medical complications and prevent them from becoming severe.
"Ensuring that Texas mothers continue to have access to comprehensive healthcare coverage during the postpartum period is a critical step in protecting Texas women from preventable postpartum conditions and illnesses," Ortega said.
• H.B. 105 expands the use of community health workers by allowing Texas Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) to report associated expenses as a quality improvement cost rather than an administrative expense. This administrative burden may limit the ability of MCOs to hire an adequate number of community health workers. Community health workers, also known as promotores de salud, are an important resource used to ensure quality access to health care within Medicaid managed care organizations. Community Health Workers are trained as community liaisons and provide meaningful assistance to patients while accessing health care and social services. They are particularly impactful in maternal health.
"Community health workers provide invaluable services and are a critical tool in addressing healthcare disparities and inequities across communities in Texas," Ortega said. "Texas must examine every opportunity to expand access to community health workers and incentivize the use of them in our state-run programs."
• H.B. 118 closes a background check loophole by requiring private firearm sales and transfers in Texas to require background checks. Federal law requires federally licensed firearm dealers to run a background check on a buyer before they may buy a firearm. However, Texas does not require private sellers to run background checks when transferring a firearm to another person.
"Requiring background checks for all firearm sales and transfers is an important step towards preventing firearms from being transferred to those who should not possess them," Ortega said. "Closing this loophole will make Texans safer from gun violence and save lives."
• H.B. 127 bans the open carry of assault weapons and long guns. Allowing the open carry of assault weapons endangers the public by potentially increasing the likelihood of a conflict. Open carry laws have enabled individuals to threaten and intimidate others. Similarly, this policy has led to confusion for law enforcement, hindering their ability to assess volatile situations and protect public safety.
"The gunman who killed 23 people on August 3, 2019, in El Paso did not break any laws until he started shooting his AK-47 style rifle," Ortega said. "If it had been illegal to openly carry an assault weapon, the gunman may have been identified or apprehended before carrying out this terrible hate crime against our community."
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