Author Archive

Mark Davis on 660 AM The Answer: Exploring saving restaurants and other Texas business & commerce

July 9, 2020

FOX 4: Texas Restaurant Association hosts town hall with lawmakers to discuss ways to help restaurant industry

July 8, 2020

Inside Texas Politics, WFAA: COVID-19 and the Texas State Budget

May 3, 2020

District Update: Fighting COVID-19 Together

March 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

Without a doubt, the fight against COVID-19 is one of the toughest we’ve experienced in the remarkable history of our great state. Infectious disease containment poses immense challenges to our health care system, our economy, and every Texas family.

Yesterday, Governor Abbott came to Arlington to conduct a news conference with the very latest information and instruction regarding the COVID-19 response in Texas [VIDEO LINK]. I was in attendance and wanted to share a few key points with you:

  • We know that senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Please be exceptionally cautious if you are in this age group. The Texas Health and Human Services Department has banned non-essential visitors to nursing homes, and it is critical to protect senior citizens by avoiding unnecessary visits to other senior living facilities. For more information regarding CDC recommendations for senior citizens, as well as other ways to help the older friends, family members, and neighbors in our lives, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html
  • As of yesterday afternoon, there are 83 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Texas, with 3 deaths, and approximately 1,900 people being monitored. Testing capabilities have increased dramatically, and by the end of this week we will be able to administer 15,000-20,000 tests per week, so the number of cases is also expected to rise as testing broadens. We share this data with you not to instill fear, but as a reminder of how important it is to follow CDC guidelines at this time and do your part to help “flatten the curve.”
  • Stay Tuned: In light of various restrictions instituted at the local level, the Governor intends to make a significant announcement today regarding unified, statewide guidance for public gathering places such as restaurants, etc.

We realize that information is changing rapidly and can be difficult to sort through. Please know that our office, while working remotely and following CDC procedures, is fully functional and here as a resource for you. I am on regular conference calls with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and our staff receives daily updates from numerous state agencies.

If we can ever help you find the time-sensitive answers you need to make well-informed decisions on behalf of your business, church, civic group, or your family, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

We are on standby to assist with everything from easing regulatory burdens to helping individuals work through complications they may be experiencing with a State of Texas program or service, or connecting them with local churches and nonprofits who can help in additional ways.

We continue to refer anyone with health-related questions directly to their physicians and the following reliable resources:

Above all, thank you for doing what you can to prevent this virus’ spread and save lives. Together, looking out for one another, we will fight this thing – and Texas will thrive again.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chairman, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation

Capitol Update: You Decide

September 17, 2019

Dear Friends,

During this year’s legislative session, ten measures passed that will only take effect if Texas voters agree at the ballot box. You decide.

November 5, 2019 is Texas’ Constitutional Amendment election date, so please mark your calendars! Here are the Propositions under consideration:

  • Proposition 1 (HJR 72) – “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”
  • Proposition 2 (SJR 79) – “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.”
  • Proposition 3 (HJR 34) – “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.”
  • Proposition 4 (HJR 38) – “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”
  • Proposition 5 (SJR 24) – “The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.”
  • Proposition 6 (HJR 12) – “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.”
  • Proposition 7 (HJR 151) – “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”
  • Proposition 8 (HJR 4) – “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.”
  • Proposition 9 (HJR 95) – “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.”
  • Proposition 10 (SJR 32) – “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”

If you have questions regarding any of these ballot Propositions or their legislative history, please consider visiting Texas Legislature Online or giving our Capitol office a call at (512) 463-0109. We won’t ask you to vote a certain way, but we’re glad to help supply information… and I don’t mind letting you know that Proposition 4 to permanently ban a state income tax is a personal favorite of mine!

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chairman, Business & Commerce

Houston Chronicle: Texans off the hook for ‘surprise’ medical bills [Editorial]

August 6, 2019

Houston Chronicle

By The Editorial Board

It sounded like a big victory for Texas patients: A new state law protects them from sticker shock if they receive an unexpected medical bill from a doctor who wasn’t in their insurance provider network.

But the victory wasn’t as big as it seemed.

The law signed last month by Gov. Greg Abbott applies only to Texans who buy insurance policies regulated by the Texas Department of Insurance. Left out is the 40 percent of the Texas insurance market, including employee benefits programs self-funded by large companies, regulated by the federal government through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Texas’ new law takes effect in September. It was authored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who has been trying to protect patients from surprise medical bills for 10 years. It was Hancock’s 2009 bill that created a mediation process to settle billing disputes between medical providers and patients whose insurance companies wouldn’t cover out-of-network charges.

Mediation since 2015 has saved Texans more than $42 million in health care costs not paid by their insurers, including $8 million last year alone, according to the insurance department. But despite outreach efforts, many patients never knew they were eligible for mediation. They instead scraped up the cash to pay any balance owed after their insurance company kicked in its obligated share.

That shouldn’t happen as often under the new law, which takes consumers out of the equation by replacing mediation between the patient and insurer with what Hancock calls “baseball arbitration,” where an intermediary with medical billing expertise settles the dispute.

“It forces both parties to be more realistic in setting actual charges and payments,” Hancock told the editorial board. “The settlement is based on whoever comes closest to what the arbitrator believes is the fair market price. Whoever is farther away from that number is going to lose.”

A companion bill that would have made arbitration available to self-funded insurance plans was abandoned during the last legislative session. Hancock explained that participation would have been voluntary since those plans follow ERISA rules instead of TDI regulations. “Hopefully, we will see Congress address the issue,” he said.

That may not happen. Hospitals are opposing a bill in the U.S. Senate they say amounts to price-setting. The legislation would require insurance companies to pay out-of-network doctors at a rate tied to in-network fees for a specific treatment or procedure. Doctors, hospitals, and other medical facilities would be banned from “balance billing” patients an amount above what they are paid by the insurer.

“In short, the federal government would bind doctors and hospitals to the terms of contracts they haven’t signed,” said Heritage Foundation fellow Doug Badger in a commentary for the Daily Signal. Badger said physicians have a right to set fees for their services. He said the better solution is to make sure patients know beforehand that they are seeing someone out-of-network.

That may sound reasonable, but not when the patient is in an emergency room or similar situation and has little option but to receive treatment then and there.

The success of Hancock’s legislation despite initial opposition by the Texas Medical Association is reason to believe Congress can find a similar solution for patients with federally regulated insurance policies. In fact, TMA President David Fleeger said the physicians group would help write the rules TDI will use for arbitration under the new statute.

It’s good to see Texas join the 25 states that already have laws protecting patients from unexpected medical bills. Now it’s time for Congress to extend that protection to more Americans. Even President Trump says he wants that to happen. He agrees that people shouldn’t open their mail to find a doctor’s bill jarring enough to make them sick.

Capitol Update: No More Surprises

July 31, 2019

Dear Friends,

Have you ever been hit with a surprise medical bill?

Maybe you experienced an emergency and had to rush to the nearest hospital or urgent care center. Perhaps you scheduled a planned procedure with an in-network doctor at an in-network facility, but ended up getting “balance billed” by an on-call anesthesiologist or other medical provider you couldn’t choose or research beforehand. Or, like too many of us, maybe you left your doctor’s appointment having covered your co-pay and any other upfront charges only to receive a huge bill after the fact from a lab that ran a physician-ordered test. Did you get to pick what lab that test went to and verify that your insurance would cover it? No.

All of these situations are what we call surprise medical bills… circumstances where the patient has no choice. I’ve spent the past decade fighting to get rid of them.

HB 2256 signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry (2009)

In 2009, after a sizeable special interest battle, I was able to pass the first step, HB 2256. This legislation established a mediation process at the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) for patients with state-regulated health plans who received surprise bills of more than $1,000 from certain providers. Patients could contact TDI for help negotiating a surprise bill, either lowering it or eliminating it in most cases. In 2015, we expanded the program by adding in additional types of providers and lowering the eligibility threshold to $500. In 2017, we expanded the law again to loop in all emergency providers, including freestanding ERs, and all out-of-network providers working at in-network facilities.

The good news? Mediation works! According to TDI, surprise bill mediation has saved Texas patients nearly $45 million in out-of-pocket healthcare costs since 2015, when the agency began tracking this data.

But, despite the mediation program’s success, many patients were unaware that help was out there. And even those who did see savings due to mediation still had to deal with the stress and time investment it took to fight a surprise medical bill when they should be focused on their own health and recovery instead.

Let’s be clear: In these cases, there is no free market for consumers. The market exists only between health plans and physicians or facilities, and the average Texan was getting caught in the middle of an industry billing dispute… confused, frustrated, and holding a big bill. So it was time for the next step: completely eliminating surprise medical billing.

SB 1264 signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (2019)

This year, we made that happen. SB 1264 prohibits surprise balance billing of consumers by out-of-network providers for emergency services, facility-based services at a network hospital, and lab and diagnostic imaging services that are related to a network service. In other words, in situations where the consumer has no choice over who provides their care, they cannot be surprise-billed for services rendered on or after January 1, 2020.

The legislation maintains the mediation process for health insurance companies and providers to work out disputes amongst themselves, also adding in a binding arbitration option, but the bottom line is this… the consumer can no longer be put in the middle. No more surprises!

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chair, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation

P.S. If you’ve received a surprise medical bill and need assistance fighting it, please contact the TDI consumer helpline at 1-800-252-3439 or visit https://www.tdi.texas.gov/consumer/cpmbalancebilling.html to learn more.

Recapping the Historic 86th Legislative Session

June 26, 2019

Capitol Update: Texas Border Surge

June 21, 2019

Dear Friends,

Today, our Capitol Update summer series accompanies some breaking news.

You may have heard Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen’s joint announcement that Texas is deploying another 1,000 National Guard troops to our southern border. These men and women will help alleviate the strain on existing border personnel who are overworked and under-resourced due to Congressional inaction.

Why do we need a border surge now? In just the past few weeks, more than 45,000 people from 52 different countries have been apprehended in Texas illegally crossing the border.

This crisis is real.

Despite the public’s demand for action, Congress continues to abdicate its border security duties… so Texas continues to step up. This session, we dedicated more than $800 million of your state budget to border security operations. That number includes funding for another 270+ Texas Rangers, state troopers, and support personnel at the border, as well as enhanced camera technology, tactical training, and transnational intelligence sharing.

Texas will not relent. We will do what it takes to patrol and secure our border.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chair, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation

Capitol Update: 2.6 Billion

June 7, 2019

Dear Friends,

The 86th Legislative Session wrapped up last week after 140 jam-packed days tackling a wide range of issues. Since a few key topics grabbed most of the headlines, we’d like to give you a more in-depth look at the results of the session.

Today’s email is the first in a summer series highlighting legislation we were honored to work on. I hope you’ll find there’s a common thread… putting the interests of the people of Texas above any level of government’s interest. Between property appraisal reforms, electric grid security, landmark drug price transparency, eliminating surprise medical billing – and a few fun bills like the Fido-friendly Outdoor Dining Act – our office managed to pass more than 60 pieces of legislation this session designed to do just that.

As the saying goes, “Keep the first things first.” So we’ll start by covering the clear No. 1 priority of Texas taxpayers: property tax reform.

SB 2 – Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019

As a joint author of SB 2 and member of the newly-formed Senate Property Tax Committee, I had the privilege of chairing the conference committee on this bill to work out differences between the House and Senate versions near the end of the session. For the first time in 40 years, the Texas Legislature delivered an extremely strong property tax reform measure that will fundamentally transform the rate-setting and appraisal processes in the Lone Star State.

KEY PROVISIONS

If a general taxing unit increases its revenue (i.e. your community’s taxes) more than 3.5% year-to-year, voters now have the protection of an automatic referendum election on the November uniform election date, when voter turnout is at its highest.

The Legislative Budget Board projects that as long as voters don’t allow their taxing units to bust the 3.5% cap, Texas taxpayers will save more than $2.6 billion over the next five years!

With pages and pages of appraisal reforms, just some of the highlights include:

Prohibiting appraisal review boards (ARBs) from raising a property owner’s appraised value during protest proceedings;

Requiring Chief Appraisers to maintain a list of qualified individuals offering free property tax assistance;

Requiring appraisal districts to notify a property owner if they’re not taking advantage of a homestead exemption to which they may be entitled;

Giving property owners aged 65 and over, military service members, veterans, and their spouses priority scheduling for protest hearings;

Allowing property owners to submit a survey related to their experience after completing a tax protest or motion (those should be interesting reads!);

Prohibiting anyone who is related to an ARB member by blood or marriage from serving as a fellow ARB member, and prohibiting elected officers or employees of a taxing unit from being simultaneously employed by an appraisal district;

Preventing taxing units from filing suit to collect delinquent taxes if the disputed tax is the subject of an appeal; and

Creating a “real-time tax notice” on appraisal district websites. This online portal will allow property owners to type in their address and see a customized notice of appraised value, including the amount of taxes that would be due under each taxing unit’s no-new-revenue rate, voter-approval rate, and proposed tax rate. Contact information for each taxing unit will be prominently featured for property owners to express their support or opposition to the proposed tax rate, adding yet another layer of transparency and accountability to the system.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this update! Please don’t hesitate to share it with any friends, family, and neighbors who may be interested.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chair, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation


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