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Sen. Hutchison seeks to protect Texas; wants full federal reimbursements

By J. Lyn Carl,

Washington, DC –

One day after state officials learned they will not be reimbursed by the federal government for the hiring of additional teachers and purchase of books to meet the needs of the more than 21,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuee children enrolled in the Texas public schools, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) today introduced legislation that would provide full federal reimbursement for the state's enrollment of evacuees in the Texas Medicaid system.

"While the evacuees must receive the quality care they deserve, Texans should not be expected to bear the burden of these costs," said Hutchison, who promised to with the congressional leadership to "ensure America takes care of Texas while Texans are taking care of their fellow Americans."

Last week, Gov. Rick Perry wrote to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, seeking assurances that Texas would get 100 percent reimbursement for the cost of providing Medicaid and other services to the more than 200,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees who were evacuated to Texas. He said the state could be out millions of dollars in taxpayer funds if it were required to meet the match requirement on Medicaid services for the evacuees.

Filing of legislation today by Hutchison follows her filing Monday of additional legislation aimed at cutting bureaucratic red tape so that relief can continue to reach victims efficiently. Those bills, the Republican senator said, were a direct result of two conference calls she had with state and local community leaders who pinpointed problems they were having dealing with certain evacuee issues. That legislation would: provide that the federal government reimburse the states for all education-related expenditures for evacuee schoolchildren; allow communities to be reimbursed for bulk supply purchases; and broaden the reimbursement for shelter-related expenditures.

Today's legislation would provide for: full federal reimbursement to the state for enrolling evacuees into the Texas Medicaid and SCHIP programs for a limited time - either six months or the lifting of the federal disaster area declaration, whichever comes first; waiving the current state eligibility criteria to allow coverage for all evacuees and for medically necessary services for the evacuee, including access to mental health services; excluding the disaster period in computing any Medicare Part B late enrollment penalties for evacuees; and extending the enrollment period in Medicare Part D for evacuees for one year.

"Texans have opened their doors and their hearts to our neighbors in need," said Hutchison, urging federal officials to ensure that the costs for offering services are not borne by the state.


More Katrina relief news and resources from KERA