April 10, 2007

"The Frew case is to health care what Edgewood was to schools. Now, the State must provide basic access to health care for 106,000 El Paso children."

Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh,

AUSTIN – On Monday, April 9, lawyers in federal court outlined a settlement in Frew v. Hawkins, a 14-year dispute over the state's obligations to provide access to health care for Texas' low-income children.  Under the settlement, the state will pay physicians and dentists 25 percent to 50 percent more to see Medicaid patients, hire more caseworkers to help families, and reduce wait times on toll-free phone numbers set up to assist families.

For the 106,000 El Paso children on Medicaid, the settlement could mean increased regular visits to doctors and dentists, and a greater selection of physicians from which to choose.  

"The Frew case is to health care what Edgewood was to schools.  Now, the state must provide basic access to healthcare for 106,000 El Paso children," said Senator Shapleigh.  "Since 1993, we have fought to increase reimbursement rates, which is the key to more doctors and dentists on the border."

In 1984, MALDEF filed Edgewood Independent School District  v. Kirby, a landmark case public school finance case citing discrimination against students in poor school districts.  On April 29, 1987, the state district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.  The court found that the state's public school financing structure was unconstitutional and ordered the legislature to formulate a more equitable solution.

In Frew, Susan Zinn, an attorney for low-income families, sued the state in 1993, alleging that the state had violated federal law by not doing enough to assure that Medicaid services reached eligible patients.  

El Paso County traditionally has had low Medicaid reimbursement rates—in a state that has already underfunded Medicaid—because of the method for determining funding, which takes into account such things as demand and cost for services, as well as wages.  In 2003, the state made further cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates when the legislature faced a $10 billion shortfall.

It is estimated that the settlement will result in a $700 million investment in Texas' low-income children.  "God bless Susan Zinn," said Senator Shapleigh. 

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