This will be worth watching.
One of the GOP’s leading healthcare experts in the House – Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton – introduced a bill Thursday to create a health insurance exchange in Texas.
The exchanges, which are required in the federal health care reform legislation that was passed by the last Congress, provide a unified marketplace for consumers to compare and purchase health insurance from private providers.
“It’s the vehicle through which a lot of the expansion of insurance was intended to occur,” said Zerwas. “We wanted to get a bill in fairly early in the Legislative session so that the members could look at it, could be sure that what we’ve come up with will uniquely benefit Texas.”
He described the exchange system he’s proposed in the bill as a public-private partnership that is a compromise between the Massachusetts and Utah exchange models.
“We have combined elements of both in there,” he said. “It sort of builds on some of our experience, in terms of the management and oversight of the high risk pool that we have. We’ve taken pieces of things that seem to work well in Texas and moved them into what this exchange would be.”
Even though he was opposed to the federal legislation that mandated the creation of the exchanges, he thought the idea was a beneficial one for Texas.
“I think people just want to get comfortable that whether ‘Obamacare’ survives or not, or whether it just completely unwinds, if we create a health insurance exchange… that it would serve Texans well whether Obamacare was out there or not,” Zerwas said.
The bill in question appears to be HB636. Zerwas is a serious health policy person, unlike his clownish Fort Bend colleague Charlie Howard, so I have hope that the discussion about this will be informative. I don’t have a strong opinion about whether Texas should do its own exchange or should leave it to the feds – all things considered, I’d trust the feds more at this time, though it must be noted that the LBB recommendations said that the state should “create and run” them – but I’m glad to see someone with chops take a crack at it. And it must be noted, of course, that it took action by a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress to get Texas to finally maybe do something about this. All in all, a reasonably positive step.