News Articles

Rep. Howard Cheers HHSC Flexibility on Medicaid Rate Reductions

October 2, 2015

Still Sees Need for Better Data on Rates, Utilization, and Impact of Cuts When Moving Forward

AUSTIN – Today, State Representative Donna Howard applauded statements from HHSC Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor, which indicated that the Commission would not feel bound by a certain level of savings when pursuing Medicaid rate reductions for acute therapy services, and that any new reduction proposal would preserve access to care. Traylor’s statements came in a response to a September 30 letter from Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Sen. Jane Nelson, which asserted that language in the rider directing the cuts provided the flexibility necessary to ensure that “eligible children all over this state can continue to receive these important services.”

Rep. Howard released the following statement:

“I am glad to see that Lt. Governor Patrick and Chairwoman Nelson have relented and agreed that HHSC, when making any Medicaid rate reductions to acute therapy services, should prioritize the preservation of access to care rather than meeting a specific amount of savings.

“After months of advocating for a more reasonable approach to addressing the issue of supposed overpayments for these services, and pointing out that the proposed reductions would severely limit access for 60,000 disabled children, this comes as welcome news.

“As the Commission pushes ahead with any new reduction proposals, however, I would stress the need for good data to back up whatever cuts are implemented. We should have a full understanding of the rates currently being paid to providers, and an appropriate comparison to those paid in other states.

“I would also urge the Commission to better determine the reasons for increased utilization of these services, and whether it is the result of any malfeasance or simply a case of more eligible individuals getting the care they so desperately need.

“Lastly, the state should conduct a detailed study on what impact to access any new rate reductions will have, and publicly release the methodology used to arrive at their findings.

“This latest news from HHSC is a blessing, but we must still proceed with caution, and with the best interests of these vulnerable children in mind.”

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Rep. Donna Howard to Host Series of Town Hall Meetings

September 21, 2015

Local Lawmaker to Offer Wrap-Up of Legislative Session and Gather Community Feedback

(AUSTIN) — State Representative Donna Howard today announced that she will host a series of town hall meetings across the community in the month of October.

“The 84th Legislature could best be described as an exercise in missed opportunities and misplaced priorities,” Rep. Howard said, “but lawmakers still made some notable advances in a variety of areas. These town hall meetings will provide an opportunity for House District 48 constituents to learn more about how recent legislative actions on the state budget, education, property taxes, and other issues will affect them and impact our community.”

The first meeting is slated for Tuesday, October 6th at Small Middle School from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. As with the others, attendees should feel free to come and go at their convenience.

“I hope that district residents will use these informal gatherings as an opportunity to ask questions, exchange information, and share their best ideas for meeting the challenges we face here in Travis County and throughout Texas,” Howard said.

A full schedule follows:

REP. DONNA HOWARD
FALL 2015 TOWN HALL MEETING SCHEDULE

Tuesday, October 6th
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Clint Small, Jr. Middle School
4801 Monterey Oaks Boulevard
Austin, TX 78749

Thursday, October 8th
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Bedichek Middle School
6800 Bill Hughes Road
Austin, TX 78745

Tuesday, October 13th
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Howson Branch Library
2500 Exposition Boulevard
Austin, TX 78703

Thursday, October 15th
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Murchison Middle School
3700 N. Hills Drive
Austin, TX 78731

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Rep. Howard Announces First Meeting of Women’s Health Advisory Committee

September 15, 2015

Group of Stakeholders To Make Recommendations on HHSC Consolidation of Women’s Health Programs

(AUSTIN) – Today, State Representative Donna Howard announced the first meeting of the Women’s Health Advisory Committee, a group of providers and stakeholders which will make recommendations to the Texas Health & Human Services Commission regarding the consolidation of women’s health programs. It will take place on Wednesday, September 23rd @ 10:00 a.m., at 4900 N. Lamar Blvd; the meeting will be webcast for those unable to attend.

Based on recommendations from the Sunset Advisory Commission and guidance from lawmakers, HHSC is anticipated to consolidate two of the state’s programs related to women’s health: the Expanded Primary Health Care for Women (EPHC) Program and the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP). The Advisory Committee was formed as a result of Rep. Howard’s amendment to SB 200 in the 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. The amendment called for the Executive Commissioner of HHSC to establish an advisory committee on the consolidation, and to ensure that a majority of its members are health care providers who are participating in women’s health programs of various sizes, are located in separate geographic areas of this state, and have experience in operating women’s health programs.

“Women’s health and family planning services have gone through a number of changes in recent years, and this advisory committee will be critical to ensuring that any consolidation of programs will be implemented successfully, in a manner that retains and builds our provider base, and serves as many women as possible,” Rep. Howard said. “I applaud Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor’s appointment of a geographically-diverse group with deep knowledge and experience in this area. He has pulled together a true A-Team for women’s health, and their work will be invaluable to this process.”

Rep. Howard continued, “there will be opportunities for public comment at this first meeting, and at subsequent gatherings of the committee. I would encourage stakeholders, including providers and members of the general public, to attend and provide input.”

Details on the first meeting are as follows:

Women’s Health Advisory Committee
September 23, 2015
10 a.m.
Health and Human Services Commission
Brown-Heatly Building
Public Hearing Rooms 1420 and 1430
4900 North Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751

The list of advisory committee members is as follows:

• Dr. Janet Realini (President, Healthy Futures of Texas)
• Peggy Smith (Professor and Director, Teen Health Clinics at Baylor College of Medicine)
• Paula Turicchi (Senior Vice President for Women and Infants Specialty Health, Parkland Health & Hospital System)
• Dr. Moss Hampton (District XI Chair, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
• Dr. Jennifer Almonte-Gonzalez (Founding Partner, The Women’s Center for Excellence)
• Carol Everett (Founder and President, The Heidi Group)
• Martha Zuniga (Executive Director, South Texas Family Planning & Health Corporation)
• Dr. John Thoppil (River Place Ob/Gyn)
• Eric Todd (CEO, Brazos Valley Community Action Agency)

The public notice of the meeting, including a full agenda and a link to the live webcast, can be found here: http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/news/meetings/2015/092315-whac.shtml.

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Rep. Donna Howard Touts New Laws on Eve of Their Enactment

August 31, 2015

Measures Set to Take Effect Include Budget Items Passed by Austin Lawmaker

(AUSTIN) – Today, State Representative Donna Howard announced the enactment of several laws which were approved by the 84th Texas Legislature. “September 1 marks the culmination of untold hours of work at the Capitol, as hundreds of new laws take effect,” Rep. Howard said. “I am proud to have passed a number of bills which will positively impact the lives of Texans.”

Rep. Howard authored or sponsored the following bills with a September 1 effective date:

– HB 426, which directs the Texas Workforce Commission to modernize the state’s Work in Texas website, making it more user-friendly and improving the application process for those seeking employment with the state. The result of a constituent’s suggestion, this legislation will help ensure that we are attracting the best and brightest applicants for our state jobs.

– SB 27, which requires the online broadcast of conference calls by the Governing Boards of institutions of higher education. This was just the latest effort by Rep. Howard to increase public access to open meetings — in the past she has been responsible for the online broadcast of meetings by the State Board of Education (SBOE) and she effectively advocated for similar transparency from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).

– SB 44, which clarifies that private gifts for undergraduate research activities are eligible for matching funds under the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP), the primary research funding for our eight emerging research institutions. This will better assure donors that their gifts can be further maximized through the use of matching funds.

– SB 1468, which makes it easier for a District Judge to remove a member of an Appraisal Review Board if there is evidence of bad behavior. The law will better prevent and punish impropriety in our appraisal process.
Rep. Howard also successfully inserted a number of items into the state budget, which goes into effect on September 1. “My position on the House Appropriations Committee was critical to advancing a variety of important initiatives in the areas of women’s health, public and higher education, and environmental policy,” the Representative said. These include the following:

– Directed the state’s health agencies to expeditiously implement program policies to increase access to Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs), including the development of provider education and training. This is particularly beneficial in light of recent research showing that educating providers on LARCs leads to increased utilization and decreased rates of unintended pregnancies.

– Directed the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, in consultation with the Texas Health & Human Services Commission, to implement necessary rules for the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program to address the qualifications for the participation of providers in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology, taking into account the field’s lower number of unduplicated clients in comparison to other specialties participating in the program.

– Directed the LBB, in consultation with the Comptroller and State Demographer, to produce a report on state revenue and cost drivers for the next 10 years, including projected revenue sources and the impact of economic and demographic growth on state programs. This will help the state better anticipate its long-range budgeting needs.

– Required the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to compile and maintain a list of the year-round schools in Texas (which they don’t currently have!), examine how they schedule their school year around assessments, and compare their assessment performance to traditional schools.

– Earmarked $1.5 million in funding through the biennium for the Educational Aide Program, which provides tuition exemption for paraprofessionals to go to college and receive a teaching certificate. These aides, often members of communities with high staff turnover, are more likely to return to those communities upon completing their education.

– Allowed the Commissioner of Education to spend $2 million to provide Texas military-connected children with additional counseling and support services in our public schools.

– Secured additional funding for the Texas Pathways Project, a data-driven effort to answer critical questions about student preparation and achievement at the local level.

– Directed $1 million to demonstration projects or feasibility studies for Aquifer Recharge and Storage, to create new water supplies or otherwise increase the availability of water.

– Earmarked $1 million in funding for Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) grants for near non-attainment areas. Areas such as Austin are considered to be close to violating federal air quality standards. This will help provide additional dollars for local air-quality efforts to reduce ozone and prevent the regulatory costs that come with being in non-attainment.

Rep. Howard passed 9 additional bills in the 84th Regular Session, each of which went into effect immediately upon receipt of the Governor’s signature.

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Rep. Donna Howard Urges Caution Regarding HHSC and Medicaid Rate Cuts

August 26, 2015

Austin Legislator Reiterates Call for the Joint-Chairs of the LBB to Take Action

(AUSTIN) – Following the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s announcement that they would hold off on implementing reductions to Medicaid rates for acute therapy services, Rep. Donna Howard released the following statement:

“Like many, I enthusiastically read today’s news that HHSC has withdrawn its plan for cuts to acute therapy rates, and aims to start from scratch on a new proposal. Unfortunately, it is now my understanding that the Agency merely intends to move forward with the $50 million in rate reductions that were originally discussed.

“From the beginning, HHSC has indicated that they are following the guidelines of Rider 50 in the Appropriations bill, and must achieve the total savings set out by that directive. The planned return to $50 million in reductions appears to be an effort to comply with the language of the rider.

“This development serves to further emphasize what I and 59 of my House and Senate Colleagues suggested in an August 14 letter, that the Speaker and the Lt. Governor should step in and take action to give HHSC flexibility on the matter.

“It is quite clear that the cuts could have a catastrophic impact, with an estimated 60,000 severely disabled pediatric patients in danger of losing access to medically necessary services.

“I would again urge that our leaders in the House and Senate, in their capacity as Joint-Chairs of the Legislative Budget Board, take steps to lessen the scope and the severity of these rate reductions.”

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On Weddings & Marriage Licenses

July 13, 2015

 

Marriage license with family Lunch after license

Friends,

My husband Derek and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary on Sunday; in honor of the occasion, we took our three kids, their spouses, and our grandson to the Travis County Clerk’s Office and got our marriage license!  You read that right–though we’ve been legally married for 35 years after a wedding officiated by my minister father-in-law and witnessed by our extended family, we’d never needed to obtain a license. The fact is that, in Texas, Derek and I were able to have the sacred ceremony that was meaningful to us, but did not have to worry about the law requiring such a document to recognize our marriage. We never had to face the discrimination which a number of our friends dealt with, with regard to how we paid our taxes, our shared benefits eligibility, or our decison-making rights in the event of a medical emergency.


Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of marriage equality, Derek and I recognized that the marriage license itself has taken on a new symbolic meaning for many people, including us.
So, I find myself on this occasion celebrating both my wedding anniversary and the historic Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and feeling a tremendous sense of gratitude to live in a country that recognizes the inherent worth and dignity–as well as the equality–of all our citizens.
As the State Representative for Texas House District 48, I have fought hard for those principles at the Capitol. And I recognize that our work is not yet done–even as long-waiting couples are finally having their unions formally recognized in venues throughout the state, some of our elected officials are seeking to turn back the clock, either through changes in law or through outright defiance of the SCOTUS ruling. I hope that you will support my campaign, so that I can beat back those attempts, and continue fighting for your values in the Legislature. Any amount is appreciated, but please consider helping me celebrate my 35th anniversary with a donation of $35 in honor of the occasion!
Thank you!
Donna
wedding_2  Vows_2

Women’s health care: Fixing what Republicans broke

March 31, 2014

BY REPS. JESSICA FARRAR, DAWNNA DUKES, AND DONNA HOWARD – SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As recognized leaders in the area of women’s health in the Texas Legislature, we have been deeply troubled and outraged by lawmakers’ actions in recent years that have strongly compromised access to women’s health services in the state, particularly the dramatic cuts to family planning funding in 2011.

Leading up to last year’s 83rd Legislative Session, we worked tirelessly to bring attention to the devastating effects of those cuts, and to educate our colleagues on the resulting closure of clinics throughout Texas. We were grateful to have bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate come together and restore funding for family planning, albeit to a different system of delivery. However, it now appears that some of our Republican colleagues are choosing to use this momentary display of common sense as a means of rewriting the past, and excusing their actions in the time that has followed.

The year 2011 was disastrous for women’s health in Texas. The Legislature cut family planning funding by two-thirds — a loss of $73 million — despite projections from the Legislative Budget Board that this action could result in 20,500 unplanned pregnancies, costing the state an extra $230 million in Medicaid expenditures. Additionally, new legislative mandates resulted in the state ending its participation in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, leaving about $30 million in federal funds on the table annually.

Contrary to any claims that these changes were somehow related to the recession, these actions were a coordinated, politically motivated attempt to bar a single qualified provider — Planned Parenthood — from receiving state funding. As if it weren’t bad enough that the state’s single largest provider of women’s health services was shut out, the Legislature’s decisions resulted in the shuttering of dozens of additional clinics who had zero affiliation with Planned Parenthood. And ignore the abortion red herring — state dollars were already and continue to be prohibited from funding abortions.

Following the protests and entreaties of health advocates and medical professionals, the state has since taken some steps to reverse course, but these advances have come with problems of their own.

The Health and Human Services Commission replaced the highly successful federally-funded Women’s Health Program with a Texas version, sans Planned Parenthood, now paid for completely at state expense. Furthermore, the rollout of the Texas Women’s Health Program website was disastrous, its list of providers has been artificially inflated and riddled with errors, there’s still no sign that its provider network can make up for the loss of Planned Parenthood, and enrollment and claims have both dropped significantly compared to the old program.

Though the Legislature secured $100 million for a new Expanded Primary Health Care for Women program and expects to direct 60 percent of those funds toward family planning services, once again, the provider network is questionable, and the delivery of services is anticipated to be much more costly than the previous system. All the king’s horses and all the king’s women can’t quite put this program back together again.

The state’s family planning safety net took years to build, and the 76 clinics that were forced to close since 2011 will not be easily replaced. Even if everything goes according to plan, the current system is expected to serve only about one-third of Texas women in need of these services.

Keeping this in mind, it’s difficult for us to be wildly complimentary of our Republican colleagues who voted to destroy a successful program and then congratulate themselves for restoring dollars to clean up the mess. And though we will continue to push our fellow legislators to address our state’s rate of uninsured — the highest in the nation — by adopting Medicaid expansion and by embracing the Affordable Care Act, which provides women with preventive services, including contraceptives, with no co-pay, we still feel rage over 2011’s cuts and last summer’s two special sessions on unnecessary anti-choice legislation.

Make no mistake, we would love to stop talking about the war on women. But for that to happen, Republicans — including so-called Red State Women — will need to stop inserting themselves into the doctor-patient relationship, refrain from any further obsessive attempts to reduce access to legal reproductive health services, and quit using anti-woman legislation to boost their chances in a primary election. Until then, we’ll call ’em like we see ’em.

Farrar has served in the Texas House since 1995 and represents Harris County. Dukes and Howard have served since 1995 and 2006, respectively, and represent Travis County. All three are Democrats.

Rep. Donna Howard Applauds List of Interim Charges

January 31, 2014

Austin Lawmaker Ready for the House to Get Back to Work for the Good of All Texans

AUSTIN – Following the release of the House Interim Charges by Speaker Joe Straus, Rep. Donna Howard issued the following statement:

“I am pleased that the House chose not to politicize the process and instead will focus on issues that have real significance in the daily lives of Texans.

“I am also pleased that Speaker Straus has incorporated a number of recommendations that I submitted into his final list of charges. These include a review of higher education funding formulas; an evaluation of financial aid, tuition assistance, waiver, and work study programs, as well as strategies for reducing student default rates; an examination of online voter registration systems; and a study on the utilization of the state’s immunization registry system for preventing and responding to communicable disease outbreaks.

“As the deliberation of Interim Charges is a harbinger of potential legislation in the upcoming session which begins in January 2015, I encourage citizens to take advantage of this opportunity to review the charges and participate in the process. The Interim Charges can be found here, and you can also contact your representative, receive email alerts about upcoming hearings, as well as view live and archived hearings on the legislative website. Of course, individuals are always encouraged to testify at hearings either in person or by submitting written comments.

“I will be closely following and actively participating in the interim process, and will send periodic updates to my constituents.

“We need to keep our focus on the issues that will keep our families healthy and our communities strong, and that will support the economic prosperity of our state. I’m ready to get to work and invite citizens to join me.”

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Rep. Howard Announces Austin Flood Relief Events

November 15, 2013

Austin Flood Relief Events

Dove Springs Volunteer Day
Saturday, Nov. 16th 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at Quicksilver & Pleasant Valley Intersection
Volunteers should report to the intersection of Quicksilver and Pleasant Valley, where they will be assigned a task. Thanks to the Dove Springs Neighborhood Association for helping to coordinate this effort.

South Austin Flood Victims Benefit Concert
Sunday, Nov. 17th 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Red Shed Tavern (8502 S. Congress Ave, 78745)
Food! Fun! Silent Auction! $15 donation goes to Central TX Floods Relief Fund through the Austin Disaster Relief Network!

Band line-up:
12:30 Thrill Joy
1:15 Shad Blair
2:30 Silo Road Band
3:45 Von Roader
5:00 Bonfire Choir
6:15 Joy Davis & Friends

Bluff Springs Volunteer Afternoon
Sunday, Nov. 17th 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the First Independent Baptist Church (8401 Bluff Springs Rd, 78744)
There are three main tasks we’re going to be helping with:
(1) Demolition of sheet rock and removal.
(2) Going door to door surveying the needs of the community.
(3) Helping clean and clear the debris from the grounds and yards around homes.

If you can join us, please bring the following to use while you’re there: garbage bags, rakes, shovels, work gloves, dust masks, work goggles, and water bottles. Whether or not you can join us, if you are willing to donate a propane space heater, families without electricity really need these to make it through the cold weather. If you’d like to donate one, please drop it by Constable Maria Canchola’s office (4011 McKinney Falls PKWY #1100 / (512) 854-4910), or bring it with you when you volunteer.

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Other flood relief efforts coming soon
Additional efforts to raise support are already in the works. Rep. Rodriguez in partnership with Council Member Mike Martinez and KXAN, a telethon will be hosted on the evening of Monday, November 25 to raise funds for all individuals affected by the floods. Additionally, there will be an all-day fundraiser concert at Fiesta Gardens on December 1, and more fundraising planned for December 6-13 during Keep Austin Generous Week.

Rep. Howard to Host Series of Town Hall Meetings

October 14, 2013

(AUSTIN) — State Representative Donna Howard today announced that she will host a series of town hall meetings across the community in the next month.

“The 83rd Legislature took significant action in areas such as budgeting, school accountability, women’s health, and water and transportation infrastructure,” Rep. Howard said. “These town hall meetings will provide an opportunity for House District 48 constituents to learn more about how last session’s legislation affects them and impacts our community.”

The first meeting is slated for Tuesday, October 15th at Howson Branch Library from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Like the others, it is designed to be informal so that people can come and go at their convenience.

“I hope these informal gatherings will give citizens a chance to ask questions, exchange information, and share their best ideas for meeting the challenges we face here in the district and throughout Texas,” Howard said.

A full schedule follows:

REP. DONNA HOWARD
FALL 2013 TOWN HALL MEETING SCHEDULE

Tuesday, October 15th
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Howson Branch Library
2500 Exposition Boulevard
Austin, TX 78703

Thursday, October 17th
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Austin Community College
South Austin Campus
Multimedia Room 1130
1820 W. Stassney Lane
Austin, TX 78745

Tuesday, October 22nd
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Hampton Library Branch at Oak Hill
5125 Convict Hill
Austin, TX 78749

Thursday, October 24th
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Old Quarry Library
7051 Village Center Drive
Austin, TX 78731

CONTACT: Brooke Bennett
512-463-0631