In wake of El Paso mass shooting Texans demand action from lawmakers.

In the wake of the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texans are asking their legislators to take clear, concrete action to prevent future tragedies. This requires acknowledging the causes and enablers of this particular type of violence, and taking steps for change before yet another mass shooting becomes a blip on the radar rather than a catalyst for reform.

This attack on our neighbors is an attack on Texan values. Texan citizens feel like they’re being hunted, and fear leaving their homes. The suspected gunman, Patrick Crusius, age 21, drove 10 hours to El Paso from the Dallas/Fort Worth area with the intent of harming Latinos, as evidenced by his manifesto, a document filled with hateful targeting language that focuses on what he calls the “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” adding that “They [Hispanics] are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

Texas leadership has a responsibility to check the kind of harmful rhetoric echoed in the shooter’s manifesto—a tall order when elected officials have themselves expressed similar sentiments. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has a documented history of using immigrant-bashing language, including earlier this year when he claimed that the media and Democrats want to continue immigration in order to pad votes and control the country

Understanding that these beliefs can be dangerous to the very people they are elected to serve is a crucial step in moving forward to find solutions. Yet in the immediate aftershock of El Paso, Patrick blamed the tragedy on video games, claiming they teach people to kill. He also talked about a lack of a focus on God and religion, and repeats the debunked trope that mass shooters all suffer from mental illness

This type of false equivocation is especially frustrating when it comes on the heels of the 2018 school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. After the 2018 Santa Fe shooting, Abbott said that it was time for action to make sure that this never happened again. As a result, the government hosted round tables, heard from experts, and when the last session started, it felt as if there was forward movement.  

But during the session, talk did not translate to action; bills were filed and stalled. This is why the current plan to hold more round table discussions is good in theory, but means little without laws that follow. When Abbott visited El Paso earlier this week and sat down with El Paso state legislators, he was surrounded by people who had previously pushed for stricter laws and regulations but gotten nowhere.

Since the Santa Fe school shooting last year, Texas passed 25 new laws related to gun safety, yet the NRA “celebrate[d] a ‘highly successful’ year in Texas as new gun bills signed into law.”

Legislators, local governments, and civilians are calling for a special session to address the concerns regarding safety. Governor Abbott said before the end of the regular session that he would not call a special session, but that could change with political and social pressure. While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claims that special sessions cause politicians to run to their far corners, Texans want their concerns addressed with action.

Consumer protection measure against surprise medical billing faces implementation issues

This year, Texas legislators passed a bill to protect patients from surprise medical billing; however, implementation of the law, which is set to go into effect January 1, 2020, is hitting some roadblocks as evidenced by a hearing held last week by the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI).

Surprise medical billing refers to a practice where patients with health insurance receive an unexpected expensive bill, typically after they go to a hospital that is out-of-network during an emergency or if the doctor that provided care to them at their in-network hospital is out-of-network.

Legislators recognized the need for a new way to help the state’s residents following an overwhelming spate of requests for mediation last year; the Texas Association of Health Plans found that in Texas “one in three emergency room admissions results in a surprise bill — nearly twice the national average.”

SB 1264 was a bipartisan piece of legislation that removes patients from the middle of disputes between a health insurance company and a medical provider, such as a hospital. The legislation allows both parties to enter into arbitration to negotiate a payment, which would be overseen by state officials, and also put a cap on negotiated rates.

Last week’s hearing received stakeholder input on issues of implementation identified by the Texas Department of Insurance. The purpose of the meeting was to inform any rulemaking needed by TDI to ensure adequate consumer protection as intended by the Texas Legislature. The crucial question for the rulemaking appeared to be how providers and insurers would come to agreement on a “fair” rate, which will ultimately affect all of the law’s stakeholders: consumers, insurance companies, and medical providers.

Other issues covered included nonemergency exemptions, arbitration process, payment standards and hold harmless provisions. The stakeholders for this law 

Until TDI confirms its posted rules, Texans will have to wait and see how—and how well—the new law protects patients. While no specific date for the rules has been announced, the deadline to submit comments ends Friday, August 9, and the looming January 1 deadline means the law’s new rules are likely to come out soon.