June 18, 2001 Contact:
Lisa McGiffert or Rafael Ayuso
(512) 477-4431; ext. 115 or 114
Consumers Union Southwest Regional Office
Healthcare vetoes leave Texas
consumers high and dry
Ombudsman, hospital conversion and hospital information,
Medicaid bills among casualties
AUSTIN, TX – Just as Congress turns its eyes this week on putting protections in place for more than 170 million Americans with private health insurance, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed bills that would help Texas healthcare consumers better understand the rights given to them under Texas laws, Consumers Union said today.
HB 2430 created a consumer advocate to help consumers, both insured and uninsured, with healthcare insurance questions, advice and complaints. The program would also help people find the appropriate existing services already available to them but sometimes difficult to find. The bill appropriated $100,000 initially to get the program off the ground and operate a statewide toll-free assistance line.
“The health insurance industry had a good day on Sunday at the expense of the millions of Texans who simply seek more fairness and efficiency from their healthcare coverage,” said Lisa McGiffert, senior policy analyst for the Southwest Regional Office of Consumers Union. “No special interests or influential lobbyists benefited from this bill, it only helped the little guy trying to figure out our complex system.”
Gov. Perry also vetoed several other health bills that would have leveled the playing field for healthcare consumers. Among the governor’s vetoes:
HB 393 – the bill would require notification to the Attorney General’s Office when a nonprofit hospital is being acquired by a for-profit entity, a situation that often leaves millions in charitable assets at risk of being taken out of the local community where the nonprofit hospital is situated. See a Consumers Union position paper (PDF) at http://www.consumersunion.org/pdf/swro/HealthNPConv.pdf
SB 1156 – while this omnibus Medicaid bill covered many areas, demonstration programs for Texans who often have trouble getting needed healthcare appear to be the target of Governor Perry’s veto. These programs would have efficiently provided services by drawing down more federal dollars to serve people with HIV/AIDS, people with serious mental illness, immigrants, poor adults, and women seeking preventive health and family planning services.
SB 279 and SB 791 — among other things, these two bills repealed a law passed in 1999 that made complaint information about hospitals confidential, so the public could not find out about problems patients were experiencing at Texas hospitals. See a Consumers Union position paper (PDF) at http://www.consumersunion.org/pdf/swro/HealthComplaints.pdf .
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.