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Relating to the establishment of the Veterans Recovery Program to provide certain veterans with hyperbaric oxygen treatment.
No significant fiscal implication to units of local government is anticipated.
The bill would add Chapter 49 to the Health and Safety Code. The bill would require the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to establish and operate the Veterans Recovery Pilot Program to provide specific veterans with hyperbaric oxygen treatment free of charge, if sufficient funds are available in the Veterans Recovery Account. The hyperbaric oxygen treatment is defined as treatment for a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) prescribed by a health care practitioner and delivered in: a hyperbaric chamber approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) or; a hyperbaric oxygen device that is approved by USFDA for investigation use under direction of an institution review board with a national clinical trial number.
The bill would create the Veterans Recovery Account, a dedicated account in the general revenue fund administered by the DSHS commissioner that would be funded with gifts, grants, donations, and interest earned on funds in the account. Funds would be allowed to administer the pilot program, provide diagnostic testing and treatment, and reimburse a veteran's necessary travel and living expenses for a veteran required to travel to obtain treatment under the pilot program. The bill would require the DSHS commissioner to seek reimbursements for payments made under the pilot program from the TRICARE program of the United States Department of Defense, appropriate federal agencies, and any other responsible third party payor.
The bill would require the facility, before providing treatment under the pilot program, to submit a treatment plan to DSHS that includes a prescription order for hyperbaric oxygen treatment issued by a health care practitioner, verification of facility and veteran eligibility, an estimate of the treatment costs, and an estimate of the veteran's necessary travel and living expenses for a veteran required to travel to obtain the treatment. DSHS would approve the treatment plans based on the availability of funds in the new dedicated account and whether the treatment plan meets the required standards of the pilot program. DSHS would be required to submit a biennial evaluation of the program to the legislature.
The committee substitute adds a provision regarding the expiration date of Chapter 49; it would expire on September 1, 2021. Any remaining balance in the veterans recovery account on the expiration of the chapter would be transferred to the general revenue fund.
Although this bill was amended on the House floor and in the Senate committee, we continue to oppose HB 175. The Senate committee substitute added language stating DSHS may not operate the pilot program if sufficient funds are not available in the Veterans Recovery Account. Thus there is expected to be no fiscal impact.
While we appreciate the additional language in the Senate committee substitute, we are concerned legislators will enact future legislation to establish a permanent Veterans Recovery Program, which could result in a negative fiscal impact similar to the original version of the bill.
The second chamber sponsor is Senator Van Taylor.
First chamber recommendation below:
Our opposition to this bill is based on our limited government principle because, while the care and support of veterans medical needs is critical, the state is not the proper level of government to create, administer, and fund this and other veterans programs. This is the responsibility of the federal government. The only reason states are in the position of considering taking on these responsibilities is because the federal government has so badly failed our veterans. It is our view that the best way for states to help veterans on these issues is to hold the federal government responsible for holding up its commitments and responsibilities, not by stepping in and taking over for them where they have failed.
The purpose of the legislation is to provide hyperbaric oxygen treatment to veterans suffering from PTSD and/or traumatic brain injuries. The original bill would have established a permanent Veterans Recovery Program whereas the House committee substitute would create a pilot Veterans Recovery Program. Thus the expected negative fiscal impact was reduced from $24.3 million to $1.7 million.
We recognize PTSD and traumatic brain injuries can substantially disrupt a veteran’s daily life. And we also recognize the great advances made in technology that make hyperbaric oxygen treatment an increasingly viable treatment option for our veterans.
We encourage legislators, rather than creating state based programs to address these needs, to hold the federal government accountable to fulfill the purpose of the Veterans Administration which, according to that agency's website, is to "fulfill President Lincoln's promise 'To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan' by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans."