Thus far, the pandemic emergency has spawned nearly 50 bills and proposed constitutional amendments. Last week Senator Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) filed a package of bills focused primarily on three issues: state planning for pandemic emergencies, mandatory coverage of preexisting conditions by health plans, and unemployment benefits. The bills are as follows:
SB 435 by Blanco: Requires the Texas Division of Emergency Management to prepare and keep a current pandemic response plan.
SB 436 by Blanco: Adds Chapter 1511, Insurance Code, to prohibit a health benefit plan issuer from denying coverage or refusing to enroll an individual in a plan on the basis of a preexisting condition (including a diagnosis of COVID-19), limiting or excluding coverage of the individual’s treatment for the condition, or charging the individual more for coverage than the issuer charges an individual without the condition.
SB 437 by Blanco: Requires the Department of Health Services to establish and maintain at least a 90-day reserve of PPE for use by health care workers and essential personnel during a public health disaster or emergency. Establishes the PPE Reserve Advisory Committee for a two-year period.
SB 438 by Blanco: Expands the existing temporary sales tax exemption for emergency preparation items to include medical facemasks, disposable gloves, and disinfecting cleaming supplies.
SB 453 by Blanco: Requires the comptroller to conduct a study to assess local and state supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to issue a report and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature by September 1, 2022.
SB 469 by Blanco: Requires the Texas Workforce Commission, during a statewide public health disaster, to suspend certain eligibility conditions (the conditions that an individual be actively seeking work or has been totally or partially unemployed during the waiting period) to authorize an individual who is otherwise eligible to receive unemployment benefits to receive those benefits. The suspension begins on the date the public health disaster is declared and ends after the declaration expires.