$1.7B will be sent to provide children with better health care

Staff Report, Alice Echo-News Journal

Recently, federal judge William Wayne Justice approved a settlement that has been in dispute for more than 14 years.

The Linda Frew, et al. v. Albert Hawkins, et al. lawsuit resulted from more than two million Texas families with children on Medicaid being denied or limited access to healthcare.

The agreement was reached in April, and the legislature in the recent session appropriated the funds necessary for the agreement, State Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles (D-Alice) announced.

The settlement will spend approximately $1.7 billion to give impoverished children on Medicaid greater access to healthcare as well as encourage more doctors and dentists to participate in the Medicaid program.

The state's share of the cost will be $700 million dollars with the balance of $1 billion coming from federal matching funds.

The funds appropriated will help increase payments for vaccinations by 30 percent to provide more preventative care.

Doctors will receive an average increase of 25 percent in their reimbursements with approximately $200 million dedicated toward this effort.

An additional $50 million will be targeted on physician subspecialties. Dentists will also receive significant reimbursement increases at a cost of $258 million dollars.

These reimbursements are necessary because only approximately one-third of Texas dentists accept Medicaid patients.

In addition, although 60 percent of physicians participate in Medicaid, only 40 percent of them are accepting new Medicaid patients.

The agreement is also designed to implement strategic medical and dental initiatives.

Some of the initiatives to be developed will include mobile dental clinics in underserved communities and loan forgiveness for physicians and dentist practicing in underserved areas. In addition, $45 million dollars will be dedicated to fund outreach programs and transportation initiatives.

"I am happy that this case will finally be resolved, thus ensuring that our greatest resource, our children, will receive the care they deserve," Toureilles said. "These funds are long over due after the draconian cuts that were made to Medicaid and CHIP in 2003. I am also pleased to see that our doctors and dentists will receive some necessary relief with reimbursement rates as well."

Toureilles requests for her constituents contact her office at 1-800-240-2294 with any questions or concerns.