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Rep.Lopez, Ray

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Representative Lopez passes monumental healthcare benefit for Texans 
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by: Rep. Lopez, Ray
05/28/2021

Austin, TX – San Antonio is home to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), the Department of Defense's only verified Level One trauma center. Currently, BAMC is a Medicaid provider similar to a traditional hospital, with one significant difference, BAMC is enrolled as a non-participating hospital. As a non-participating hospital, BAMC is able to bill Medicaid for eligible inpatient trauma care, but one limitation of this arrangement is that they are required to collect any remaining balance after Medicaid reimbursement—from the patient.

House Bill 2365 recognizes Texas' only Level One trauma military treatment facility as a participating Medicaid provider permitting BAMC to accept Medicaid reimbursement for either in-patient or follow-up outpatient treatment as payment in full, mitigating heavy financial burdens on civilian trauma patients.

"Many of the injuries treated at BAMC replicate wartime injuries, that is why this facility is so significant to the DOD, it is a place where we can train military medical professionals with real life scenarios they would experience in combat. But civilian patients can be left on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars following their procedures. Currently, if a patient is insured, their insurance company is billed. But if a patient's insurance company does not pay cover the full amount, BAMC is not legally allowed to negotiate with them; the patient is left with the balance, explained Representative Lopez. "If a patient does not pay the balance within 120 days, by law, the US Treasury begins to aggressively pursue the debt, assess interest and penalties and even garnish wages. This takes a bite at the apple by allowing BAMC to accept Medicaid as payment [in full]."

BAMC provides support to 22 counties in Southwest Texas, covering more than 26,000 square miles and servicing more than 2.2 million people giving BAMC a unique relationship with the civilian community. Approximately 85% of trauma patients treated at BAMC are civilians with care provided under auspices of the United States Army’s Secretarial Designee (SECDES) program. Despite the success of SECDES, civilian patients are often left with a huge financial burden after discharge due to existing billing and collection processes and authorities.

Representative Lopez believes that HB 2365 will ensure that our most vulnerable population who receive care from a Military Treatment Facility will not be saddled with excessive medical debt. The training provided by the partnership is integral to national defense and saves lives both in the community and on the battlefield. HB 2365 passed both chambers on May 28th, 2021 and is heading to the Governor's office to be signed into law.

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