Midterm elections typically bring to light the public’s viewpoint of how well the current administration is doing. This year, the polls told a frightening story of unease and frustration about the direction in which our country is headed. But what does this mean for Texans, and how will it affect politics come Jan. 11, when the 82nd legislative session begins?
When it comes to politics, you definitely can’t consult a crystal ball to determine the future. If the recent elections taught us anything, it would be that the public has grown tired of politics determined by two governing bodies that have no regard for the wishes of its constituents.
Politicians may now be more likely to vote on issues based on the majority of the public’s view within their own district, which could be a good thing. It could also be a bad thing, as many politicians may waffle at the big ticket items, therefore slowing down the passage of key legislation.
While the Republican party recently gained many seats in Austin and D.C., for the most part, it will be business as usual. However, it’s too soon to conclude how the new class will perform since there’s a huge difference between campaigning and governing: One is often done with platitudes, while the other is accomplished by making hard, and often uncomfortable, choices. It would be safe to assume that with our state legislature’s makeup, we may see a more conservative approach than in past sessions, but don’t expect anything too extreme.
PPACA … and other issues
The state legislature’s action on health care reform will rely heavily on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. The Texas Association of Health Underwriters will continue to be involved in the process, ensuring that every Texan has access to affordable health insurance, and that the producer remains part of the solution.
Gov. Perry has indicated that decisions about how Texas operates need to be kept at the state level, since federal intervention hasn’t always favored the state, and has often brought about unintended consequences.
It appears that after these midterm elections, both Texas and Washington will focus on creating jobs and reducing government spending. Each state has the power to make sure their citizens have appropriate health care options, and this is something that Texas has done remarkably well in the past. The state may also need to go back to the drawing board to determine the effect of health care mandates as they relate to the cost of insurance coverage.
In addition to health care issues, the state legislature will have its hands full with immigration reform and government spending. Although health care will be included in many discussions, it’s difficult to determine in what direction those discussions will head until we have a clearer picture of how Washington will move forward with its current, and possibly amended, health care reform package.
For the most part, things in Texas will continue to operate in the same manner as they have in past legislative sessions. There may be some exceptions that could quickly come to the surface when it comes to redistricting – a topic that always brings about heated debate – but with 99 Republican House seats, there should be plenty of votes to force just about anything that may come up.
A tall job
With so many hot topics on the agenda for the 82nd legislature, it will be difficult to determine exactly where health care will fall. Texas insurance agents play a key role in the delivery system, and both the Texas Department of Insurance and the governor’s office understand and acknowledge this. TAHU hopes to play a major role in the development of any health care reform package that the state considers; however, with so many new faces in Austin, the association will have a tall job of educating our newly elected officials on the value of TAHU and what an insurance agent brings to the table.
TAHU always has and will continue to take an active role in educating its membership on new laws, new products, and new players. In addition, TAHU stands at the forefront in helping the Department of Insurance in all health care-related subjects. Our goal is to ensure that the end user – the health care consumer – has the coverage they need, when they need it.
Rusty Rice is immediate past president of the Texas Association of Health Underwriters.