Each legislative session, JPS Health Network monitors dozens of bills that could affect the county hospital and its patients. Several are still wending through the Texas House or Senate weeks before the 88th Legislature, which began Jan. 10, draws to a close May 29.

Ashlea Quinonez is the vice president of government relations at JPS Health Network. (Courtesy photo | JPS Health Network)

Ashlea Quinonez, vice president of government relations at JPS, spearheads the hospital’s advocacy effort, traveling weekly to Austin to converse with legislators, attend committee meetings and coordinate testimonies from hospital executives. 

“It’s my responsibility to literally forge relationships with governmental entities at all levels,” she said. “I want them to know about JPS Health Network. I want them to know the incredible role we have in serving their community.”

This session, the hospital’s priorities range from workforce issues like employee retention and workplace violence to strengthening behavioral and maternal health care. Quinonez highlighted several “top priority” bills from the 150-200 she’s monitoring, and where JPS stands on each one. Here are five:

Senate Bill 2059

Author: Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen
Last action: Referred to House committee after passing Senate
JPS’ position: For

This bill would establish grant funding to increase the number of nursing faculty in nurse training programs. “The health care industry is really struggling right now with being able to hire and retain good quality (providers),” Quinonez said. 

JPS already offers a nurse residency, but the bill’s passage would help fund additional clinical training opportunities and benefit nursing colleges across Tarrant County. Buoyed by the extra funding, nurse leaders at JPS could offer clinical expertise as adjunct faculty in those programs, she said.

House Bill 12

Author: Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, and others
Last action: Referred to Senate committee after passing House
JPS’ position: For

This bill would extend Medicaid coverage to pregnant women from two months to 12 months beginning the last day of her pregnancy. “We see the good and the bad when it comes to new mothers and challenges that they face,” Quinonez said. “She’s going to stay healthier if she has that (health care) access, and so is her child.”

Senate Bill 240

Authors: Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels
Last action: Signed in Senate after passing both House and Senate
JPS’ position: For

This bill would require health care facilities to implement a workplace violence prevention committee and plan in the aftermath of a deadly hospital shooting in Dallas. JPS has had these policies in place for years, Quinonez said, but the bill would ensure other health care facilities did so, too.

Senate Bill 840

Author: Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas
Last action: House committee report sent to calendars after passing Senate
JPS’ position: For

This bill would increase the criminal penalty for assault on hospital personnel from Class A misdemeanor to third-degree felony, the same penalty for assaulting a pregnant person or security officer. 

House Bill 1692

Author: Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls and Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth
Last action: Left pending in House committee
JPS’ position: Initially against, now neutral

This bill would restrict health care facilities from charging patients a facility fee in outpatient clinics. “In the health care industry, the facility fee is the payment that the hospital actually gets for operating the facility … the cost of the building, the maintenance, the electrical, the equipment and supplies,” Quinonez said. “If you don’t let us charge a facility fee to help cover operational costs, we may have to consider decreasing services or closing outpatient facilities.” 

After a series of conversations among Quinonez, members of state hospital associations and Frank, he revised the bill to prohibit facility fees for telehealth visits. During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, JPS was permitted to temporarily bill telehealth facility fees to facilitate safe and effective patient care, Quinonez said. With the public health emergency slated to end May 11, JPS will no longer charge facility fees for telehealth visits, and the hospital’s position on the bill shifted to neutral. 

After the session ends, Quinonez will focus her efforts on federal legislation and local education. She’s planning to invite a slew of elected officials to tour JPS. She calls it “show and tell.”

“I always want people to walk away really having an appreciation for JPS and the incredible care we provide the community.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated May 5 to clarify Ashlea Quinonez’ hiring in the lead photo’s caption.

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at alexis.allison@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter

Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis AllisonHealth Reporter

Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....