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Harris County Residents Want To Know More About Regional Government, Texas Acts Against Surprise Medical Bills, And Pediatricians Weigh On Child Car Safety

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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Over 11,000 people participated in the "Talking Transition" survey, which was conducted in five languages in Harris County.
Over 11,000 people participated in the “Talking Transition” survey, which was conducted in five languages in Harris County.

Harris County Residents Want to Know More About Regional Government

Many Harris County residents complain about a lack of information about how the county government works, and feel unsafe about future natural disasters. Those are two of the key findings of a survey the office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released on Wednesday.

The survey, officially titled “Talking Transition,” was conducted after Hidalgo took office in January after delivering one of the biggest political upsets of the November 2018 election in Texas when she defeated incumbent Ed Emmett.

Over 11,000 people participated in the survey, which was distributed in five languages. Hidalgo told Houston Matters the initiative is “fundamentally about democratic governance, our government is only as good as it is democratic and it invites participation.”

The survey also found nearly half of residents have a negative perception of the local criminal justice system. Additionally, residents are worried about air and water quality, and public transportation.

Texas Takes Action Against Surprise Medical Bills

Texas is now among more than a dozen states that have cracked down on the practice of surprise medical billing.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed legislation Friday shielding patients from getting a huge bill when their insurance company and medical provider can’t agree on payment.

Senate Bill 1264 is bipartisan legislation that removes patients from the middle of disputes between a health insurance company and a hospital or other medical provider.

Under the new law, insurance companies and medical providers can enter into arbitration to negotiate a payment — and state officials would oversee that process.

Surprise medical billing typically happens when someone with health insurance goes to a hospital during an emergency and that hospital is out of network. It also happens if a patient goes to an in-network hospital and the patient’s doctors or medical providers are not in network. Sometimes insurance companies and medical providers won’t agree on what’s a fair price for that care, and patients end up with a hefty medical bill.

Cars align the curb in downtown Houston on September 20, 2018.

State Pediatricians Weigh On Child Car Safety

Under current Texas law, children under the age of eight have to ride in a safety seat that’s installed according to manufacturers’ instructions. But Gov. Greg Abbott has vetoed a bill that would have required kids under two to ride in a rear-facing seat.

Currently 14 states have laws addressing rear-facing seats. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends young children ride in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible and those recommendations are also included on the Texas Department of Public Safety website.

Dr. Ben Raimer with the Texas Pediatric Society said his group is also working toward stronger regulations on the use of car seats.

“That car seat acts as a shield and protection unit,” said Raimer. “As a pediatrician we all have our horror stories that we carry around with us and that’s what makes us stop a moment and talk to parents about proper use of a car seat. I just can’t tell you how important it is to follow those American Academy of Pediatrics standards.”