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Top Morning Stories May 11, 2011

Graphic courtesy of the Texas Tribune, by Todd Wiseman.

Texas Lawmakers Trying to Overhaul Medicaid & Medicare

The Texas Tribune, KUT's political reporting partner, has a story this morning on how Texas lawmakers are moving forward with efforts to overhaul -and get more control of- Medicare and Medicaid. 

Medicare is the health care program for the elderly; Medicaid primarily serves poor children and people who are disabled. State lawmakers are moving forward with their bill even though seniors across the country are upset with U.S. House members who supported overhauling Medicare. Here's more on the Texas bill from theTrib:

Rep. Lois Kolkhorst’s “health care compact” bill, HB 5 — which would effectively ask the federal government to give Texas and other states block grants to run Medicaid and Medicare as they see fit — passed easily out of the House, and was heard in a Senate committee on Tuesday. That’s despite Democrats’ warnings that any effort to redesign Medicare will terrify, or potentially harm, seniors and a failed attempt by Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, to remove Medicare from the Texas compact bill. “The reason I offered the amendment is exactly because of what’s going on nationally — it’s an ‘I told you so,’” Eiland said. “Before we start messing with our seniors, let’s try to prove we can run Medicaid.”

The Tribune reports approval of the health care compact is a steep, highly unlikely hurdle considering it would have to be approved by Congress and President Obama.

City of Austin Proposing New Rules for Boarding Homes

The City of Austin is proposing new regulations that would apply to single family homes that shelter the elderly or disabled. Currently no specific standards regulate these boarding homes.

Some of the highlights of the proposed regulations:

  • Mobile homes would not be allowed to be used as boarding homes
  • Generally, the new rules would only allow two people to room together
  • One bathroom would have to be available for every six residents
  • And the City would inspect fire safety gear and kitchen sanitary conditions

The city hasn’t said yet how much a permit would cost a boarding home operator. You can read the entire draft regulations proposed by the City of Austin here. You can also listen to KUT's Erika Aguilar's story on boarding homes here.

House OKs Department of Insurance Sunset

The Texas House has given preliminary approval to a bill to continue the operations of the Texas Department of Insurance. The Sunset bill is part of a regular review of state agencies. 

The bill doesn’t make sweeping changes to how insurance is regulated in Texas but it does include some measures to make the Department of Insurance more accountable. It would require the department to make its procedures for reviewing insurance rates accessible to the public.

The legislation has one more step in the House before heading to the Senate.