Rep. Erin Zwiener Cosponsors Bill to Address Student Debt
Austin, TX — The Texas House advanced bipartisan legislation today to protect Texans who have defaulted on their student loans from losing their occupational licenses.
A March report in the Texas Tribune found over 4,200 Texans were at risk of losing their licenses to work in 2017 because they were in default on their student loan payments. State Rep. Erin Zwiener cosponsored Senate Bill 37 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, saying the bill begins to address the looming issue of student debt in Texas.
“As a Texan with student loans, I know the burden of starting a career, buying a home, and making other investments with college debt,” Rep. Zwiener said. “SB 37 protects Texans from further financial struggle by ensuring they cannot lose their licenses while still drowning in student loans. We cannot expect folks to pay off their debt while taking away their income stream at the same time.”
In the last five years, 250 Texans had applications to renew their teaching licenses denied due to student loan debt, according to the Texas Education Agency. Texas ranks second in highest college debt in the nation while the average Texan’s student loans came in at over $27,000 as of 2017.
“I am proud of our bipartisan work to protect Texans with student debt from losing their occupational licenses, but there is still work to do,” Rep. Zwiener said. “College costs are skyrocketing, student debt is increasing, and Texans are hurting even before they begin their careers. We must continue the work to reduce the cost of higher education and allow future generations to reach their fullest potential.”
Rep. Erin Zwiener Votes to End Surprise Medical Billing
Austin, TX — With the support of State Rep. Erin Zwiener, the Texas House gave the go-ahead Tuesday on legislation to protect Texans from surprise medical bills. Usually occurring during emergency-related care, surprise medical bills happen when patients don’t realize they’ve seen an out-of-network provider.
Senate Bill 1264 by Sen. Kelly Hancock relieves Texans hit with unexpected medical bills by removing the patient from medical billing disputes and instead requiring the providers and insurance companies to negotiate remaining healthcare balances.
“Today is a victory for patients across Texas who have too often come home from the hospital and received a surprise medical bill in the mail just a few weeks later,” Rep. Zwiener said. “By removing patients from the process, we are allowing the accountants to do their job while patients focus on recovery.”
Under current law, patients must initiate the mediation process by requesting formal intervention by the Texas Department of Insurance. As the mediation requests for balance billing have increased over the years, TDI has seen a backlog of cases. SB 1264 would diminish these backlogs by taking patients out of that process. Rep. Zwiener is a coauthor on the House companion, HB 3933.
“Attempting to navigate the medical billing process while recovering from an illness or injury only makes patients’ health and stress worse,” Rep. Zwiener said. “With this bipartisan legislation, we are creating a simpler system so patients can avoid the surprise and burden of being slapped with high costs later down the line.”
As Texas House Looks to Pass Discriminatory Bill, LGBTQ Caucus Fights Back
Austin, TX — State Representative Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) Monday joined with fellow members of the Texas LGBTQ Caucus on the House floor to speak against a license-to-discriminate bill targeting the LGBTQ community. Senate Bill 1978 opens the door to LGBTQ Texans being denied everyday government services under the guise of religious liberty.
“This bill is designed to make the LGBTQ community feel less-than, to feel attacked by their government,” Rep. Zwiener said. “It is yet another attack on the LGBTQ community and puts Texas on the wrong side of history. I urge my fellow legislators as you vote on this bill Monday to think about who this bill may be hurting — friends, family, future family. Be brave. Choose the right side of history.”
Rep. Jessica González offered an amendment that would have explicitly extended employment protections to members of the LGBTQ community. The amendment failed 65-76 on a largely party-line vote.
“The supporters of this bill claim that they’re not pro-discrimination,” said Rep. Zwiener. “Well, they had the chance to protect LGBTQ people from employment discrimination, and the fact that members voted down that measure shows what this bill was always about.”
The other founding members of the LGBTQ caucus also spoke out against the bill, including Rep. Celia Israel, Rep. Jessica González, Rep. Julie Johnson, and Rep. Mary González. The LGBTQ Caucus led a successful push to tank the House version of the bill last week on a procedural maneuver. However, the Senate immediately revived the legislation, pushing it through their chamber without so much as a public committee hearing.
“I’m disappointed that leadership was so determined to get this bill on the floor,” Rep. Zwiener said. “The point of order last week should have been the end of it. But despite this license-to-discriminate bill moving forward, I want the Texas LGBTQ community to know that the House LGBTQ caucus isn’t going anywhere. We’ll continue to fight for each and every Texan.”
Rep. Erin Zwiener Takes Stand Against Anti-Health Care Bill
Austin, TX — State Representative Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) spoke out against Senate Bill 22, which would stifle local governments’ ability to address reproductive health challenges in their communities. Although the bill was pitched as protecting taxpayers from funding abortion, current law already prohibits that.
Instead, the bill prohibits cooperative work with organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, who provide Zika testing, cancer screenings, contraception, and routine care to tens of thousands of Texans every year.
After hours-long debate and nearly two dozen proposed amendments, the bill passed the House on a largely party-line vote. Rep. Zwiener was one of many Democrats who voiced their strong opposition to the bill.
“I may be an idealist, but the Texas Legislature should always be striving to do what works,” said Rep. Zwiener. “SB 22 doesn’t work. This bill will eliminate access to critical healthcare services for thousands of Texans who need them and in turn, drive up healthcare costs for all of us. It’s disgraceful that we’re stripping funds from organizations that provide essential health care to Texans in the name of political grandstanding.”
Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation, the sixth-highest rate of teen pregnancy, and the highest rate of repeat teen pregnancy. Rep. Zwiener proposed an amendment that would have protected access to cancer screenings, STD treatment, and contraception among other healthcare services.
“I personally received screenings and treatment through a Planned Parenthood affiliate years ago, and their services are in part what allow me to enjoy my beautiful daughter Monday,” Rep. Zwiener said on the House floor. “This bill only hurts people like the young woman I was a decade ago who rely on these services to protect their health and fertility. That’s why I am voting no to protect Texans’ access to care and to put what works over politics.”
Rep. Zwiener Votes to Extend Medicaid Eligibility to Women 12 Months After Pregnancy
Austin, TX — The Texas House of Representatives moved ahead on legislation to extend Medicaid coverage to new mothers for a full 12 months after giving birth.
House Bill 744, authored by Rep. Toni Rose and supported by Rep. Erin Zwiener, would require the Health and Human Services Commission to provide coverage to women for at least a year after delivery. Current law holds that a woman’s Medicaid coverage expires 60 days after giving birth.
“As a new mother, I know firsthand the importance of having access to health care the first year after pregnancy,” said Rep. Zwiener. “Texas’ maternal mortality rates are unconscionable, and complications often arise a few months after delivery. That’s why I supported Rep. Rose’s bill to expand access to health care for new mothers. By extending Medicaid coverage to 12 months after pregnancy, we can address head-on ongoing health conditions in new mothers and reduce Texas’ maternal mortality rates.”
Last year, state health department officials recommended measures related to improving the health of new mothers and mitigating the consequences of pregnancy-related complications. The main solution highlighted in a state health department report was better health care, particularly for low-income women on Medicaid.