Making Texas health care markets more affordable

The Texas Legislature has sent a comprehensive package of health care bills to the Governor for approval. Gathering near unanimous support, these legislative measures take an ambitious stride towards creating more competitive health care markets to tackle the increasing issue of health care affordability across the state.

“Rising hospital and health care prices continue to burden Texas employers and Texas families,” observed Charles Miller, senior policy advisor at Texas 2036. “This Legislature has crafted an extensive, proactive package of bills to place Texas at the forefront of data-driven initiatives combating escalating health care prices. We should applaud the major strides that this legislature has taken this session.”

A significant majority of Texans (61%) reside in areas with “highly” or “very highly concentrated” hospital markets, a trend contributing to ever-increasing health care costs throughout the state. Contrasting to other states, only 3% of Californians and 10% of Illinoisians live in areas that are this concentrated.

With the price of employer-sponsored health insurance now averaging $22,000 per family — approximately one-third of the median Texas household wage — concerns about health care affordability have surpassed worries over inflation for many Texas businesses, as a recent poll by the Texas Association of Business revealed.

Charles Miller continued, “Healthy, competitive markets work to ensure that services are available at the most affordable prices. Unfortunately, Texas health care markets fall short of this ideal, with a lack of competition and excessive pricing leading to unsustainable expenditures for both employers and families. Our Legislature has responded by endorsing bipartisan legislation to provide actionable data and pioneering solutions to these affordability challenges.”

Healthy Markets bills: Where they stand

These five legislative initiatives have been signed or are awaiting the Governor’s approval:

  • HB 711: Revitalizing Healthy Markets: This bill by Rep. James Frank and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst aims to restore competition to Texas’ health care markets by prohibiting contracts that restrict choice or prevent price transparency. Its passage signifies overwhelming support for encouraging market competition and protecting consumer rights.
  • HB 2002: Empowering Smart Shoppers: This measure by Rep. Tom Oliverson and Sen. Kelly Hancock addresses out-of-pocket expenses and seeks to empower Texans who haven’t yet hit their deductible to become savvy health care consumers, regardless of network restrictions.
  • SB 490: Unveiling Billing Transparency: This bill by Sen. Bryan Hughes and Rep. Caroline Harris, which has already been signed by the Governor, endeavors to provide patients with a detailed understanding of the charges they incur, requiring providers to issue itemized, plain-language bills upon request.
  • HB 3414: Optimizing Health Data: This legislation by Rep. Tom Oliverson and Sen. Kelly Hancock would unlock the potential of the all-payer claims database, granting researchers access to a wealth of anonymized health care claims data for groundbreaking research and insights.
  • HB 25: Ensuring Affordable Prescription Drugs: This bill by Rep. James Talarico and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst creates a path for Texas to import prescription drugs from Canada, addressing the growing concern about the skyrocketing cost of medications.

As the 88th Legislature makes decisive moves to address soaring health care prices, the culmination of their efforts signifies a hopeful future for more affordable health care in Texas. Building on existing price transparency requirements, lifting restrictions on crucial consumer information disclosure, and tackling the growing impact of consolidation and market power, these bills promise to usher in a new era of affordable, accessible health care for all Texans.

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