Legislative Accomplishments: Health Care Reform and Protecting Religious Liberty

June 21, 2021

This is my seventh installment on accomplishments in the recent Texas legislative session that adjourned May 31st.  Much good work has been overlooked.  However, there was also much left undone.  So, when I finish this series, I’ll layout some things I believe the Texas Legislature must accomplish in the special sessions coming later this summer and early fall.

Health Care Reform: Expanding Access to Care and TeleHealth 

A priority this legislative session was the expansion of telemedicine and overall access to affordable healthcare services.  During the pandemic, having robust broadband and telehealth services became more critical for Texans than we had ever expected.  Although there is much left to do in improving access and affordability some very good progress was made. 

HB 4 – Expands telemedical services eligible for reimbursement. 

HB 18 – Lowers prescription costs by establishing a self-replenishing fund for prescription rebates to serve uninsured and under-insured Texans. 

HB 2056 – Allows for teledentistry practices to serve rural Texans.

SB 1137 – Requires hospitals to disclose to the public certain health care information, including a list of standard charges and shoppable services.

HB 3752 – Creates the Texas Mutual Health Coverage Plan available to individuals and small businesses who lack traditional health insurance.  This will allow cost-effective solutions and affordable health insurance to the marketplace. 

HB 3924 – Authorizes the Texas Farm Bureau to offer a health benefit plan to its members giving rural Texans better access to competitive health plans.  

Protecting Religious Liberty 

During the pandemic, we all witnessed disturbing displays of government overreach.  I was shocked to see houses of worship actually ordered closed.  Almost all Texans would agree that the First Amendment unequivocally guarantees our freedom to gather in worship and that government has no role in religious practices and should never interfere.  Yet it became apparent that we needed to reinforce this principle in Texas law.  So, four bills were passed to make it clear that religious liberty is paramount across our state. 

HB 1239, SB 581 and SB 525 were passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Abbott to ensure that going forward religious liberties would be protected in Texas.  Of greatest importance is SJR 27 which is a proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution.  If approved by the voters next November it will place into the Texas Constitution a specific prohibition on the closing of houses of worship by local officials. 

I’ll continue this series with another installment in just a few days.