The Texas House of Representatives passed a $4.8 billion supplemental budget bill Feb. 21 that addresses a gap in Medicaid funding for 2013 and allows 3 million Texans to continue getting medical care past mid-March.
The bill still has to be approved by the Texas Senate before it goes into effect and funds the program. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said the plan is to have that happen in early March.
“Without the appropriations in this bill, our Medicaid program will run out of money next month,” Pitts said.
If it does not pass, the program loses its funding because of a budget tactic in 2011 that lawmakers used to defer billions in payments and help them balance the state budget.
The bill was anticipated by lawmakers, who pass some sort of supplemental budget bill every session that plugs gaps in budget.
The bill passed unanimously in the House with no dissent and no changes, and it is not expected to hit any roadblocks in the Senate.
The bill provides about $4.5 billion to address the Medicaid shortfall, with the rest of the balance going to fund gaps in other budget areas, including the Foundation School Program.
The legislation was passed before the House is technically allowed to debate bills; it was declared an emergency item because of the timing of the shortfall. There are no other bills on the emergency agenda, raising concerns by Democrats who believe that the Legislature should immediately take up bills to restore $5 billion in cuts to public education and programs from 2011.
Democrats who have been pushing for the restoration of those funds, however, took a hands-off approach to the Feb. 21 bill, noting that blocking its passage or attempting to weigh it down with amendments would do a disservice to the millions of Texans who need to continue medical appointments.