The Republican Women of West Texas and State Representative Susan King co-hosted a coffee at the Pioneer Museum on Monday morning, December 3, 2012.
King was elected in 2006 and will be serving District 71 for the fourth time when the Legislature re-convenes on January 8, 2013.
King opened the event by praising the involvement of Republican women in the area and for their insight that is different than their male counterparts. She stated that these women are probably disappointed by the outcome of the federal election as great challenges will still be faced, especially at the state level.
She has served on the past committees for public health, education, human services and appropriations, and King held a brief discussion on what the legislature does when they meet. But through online access, citizens can learn about the bills being presented and can track down vital information.
However, this next session will have big issues, said King, like the budget. Particularly, there are concerns with Medicaid--which makes up between 25-30% of the entire state budget. As federal reform will place more people under this umbrella, King posed the question of how it will be paid with the possibilities of budget cuts or the state's Rainy Day Fund.
Also mentioned was the idea of drug testing individuals who receive government assistance and how that matter would be funded. Other things which will be looked at are in regards to water and transportation.
King noted that the budget, for this session, is not as bad compared to past sessions, but it is not where it needs to be. She cited the federal stimulus package from 2009, which was a one-time deal but people failed to realize its brevity.
She said the upcoming session would be "great but difficult" and noted the representation of West Texas, which covers around 75% for landmass but only has 15 representatives. And currently, only 30 women are in the Texas House.
Questions on the issues King noted were asked by those in attendance, most of which centered around health care. For Medicare and Medicaid, the majority of the changes come from the federal level, meaning that little can be done within the state.
One such change will be for hospitals, who are required to offer treatment; King said these changes are already leading to a "slippery slope." Federal law states that emergency rooms must offer treatment, following past "dumping" practices where care was not given.
In addition, Medicaid alone for the state--which covers all ages--is at a $4.5 billion deficit.
HMOs were also discussed as a "60 Minutes" piece which aired on Sunday night was cited, which dealt with HMO fraud. HMOs were described by King as one who manages the health care between the patient and doctor and are contacted by the government.
Studies are taking place to absolve the problem, but it does cost money. However, early steps being taken by some facilities are to become "cash-only" health care providers.
But, King noted that the poor practices by the HMOs are a "tragedy," in that these outsiders are the ones who end up dictating and almost practice medicine to people they've not met.
The issue of drug testing for benefits made its way into the questions as well. King said that while the costs and details are unknown, it is a certainty that the issue would be costly.
However, this would open the door to which programs would be tested or not tested. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas, the representative stated, is already trying to promote the testing, but this is not a new issue to the state.
King stated that two sessions ago, this notion was brought up with much negative reaction, but that it could always come back into discussion within the legislation.
Additionally, the question was asked on King's thoughts on state sovereignty as more federal regulations trickle down. She said that there is already a committee for state sovereignty.
People already are discussing the far options of secession and/or nullification, in which complete removal would bring about penalties. King noted that while Texas tends to be an independent-minded state, we must look at the idea at a realistic perspective.
Much of the secession discussion goes back to the federal government's role in Medicare and Medicaid, as they use scare tactics throughout their mandates. But, she did note that when talking about secession, it is a sensitive topic.
Brief questions were also taken on the Rainy Day Fund and immigration. King concluded the forum by stating that while we are faced with many issues, we are fortunate enough to live in the United States.
Wrapping up the event were acknowledgments to King's office for their work and to Aroma's Casual Bistro from downtown Sweetwater for providing the refreshments. It was also noted that a representative from Congressman Randy Neugebauer's office was at the meeting, as the Republican Women of West Texas are also preparing for a coffee with the congressman at a later date to be announced, among other upcoming events.