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$460 million plan by House Appropriations Committee, which includes Rep. Muñoz and Rep. Longoria, would help protect Texas Medicaid and CHIP, Edinburg EDC announces

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Featured, from left, prior to a legislative briefing with Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Tuesday, June 17 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, are: McAllen Mayor Jim Darling; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; and McAllen City Commissioner Trey Pebley.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

The House Committee on Appropriations, which includes Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, on Thursday, March 12, approved the continued funding of Medicaid-to-Medicare parity payments, starting September 1, 2016, in the amount of $460 million. The funding decision is also part of the state legislative agenda of the Edinburg Mayor, Edinburg City Council and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. “There is a clear need to address the inadequacy in Medicaid payments,” said Muñoz. “The House Appropriations Committee has budgeted sufficient funds to counteract the growing trend of doctors opting out of Medicaid due to low reimbursement rates. These appropriations will help ensure the longevity of the Medicaid and CHIP services that safeguard the health of millions of Texans and allow us to continue planning for advancements in medical services and technology.” The March 12 action follows requests from primary care physicians statewide and through advocacy organizations such as the Texas Medical Association (TMA) so the state government can retain doctors who participate in Texas’ Medicaid program and CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and to ensure that eligible Texans can continue to have access to medical care, according to the TMA. Medicaid and CHIP provide medical coverage for more than 4.6 million low-income Texans as of December 2014. The programs cover half of all children in the state and help provide care for two-thirds of people in nursing homes. In Texas, all CHIP services and most Medicaid services are delivered through managed care health plans under contract with the state, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The $460 million appropriation, which will be included in the final state budget to be presented for action by the full 150-member House of Representatives, was approved upon the recommendation of the Sub-Committee on Article II – Health and Human Services (HHSC), on which Longoria serves. “Having met with and discussed this issue with many doctors from my district, as well as physicians from across Texas, I, along with my colleagues on the sub-committee, have come to understand the inadequacy of Medicaid payments and the need to pay better to expand access to care,” said Longoria. “We need to invest the necessary resources to improve appropriate and timely access to medical services for Medicaid patients, not only by maintaining higher payments for primary care physicians, but also by ensuring competitive physician payment rates for sub-specialists and CHIP.”

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From a new generation of leadership comes Sergio Muñoz, Jr., a defender of the people

 

Sergio Muñoz, Jr. – a successful attorney,  area municipal court judge, and South Texas native son – on Thursday, November 12, launched his campaign for state representative, House District 36, vowing to think big, fight hard, and open the corridors of power to people from all walks of life. "I am running because I believe that my years in professional and community services, and my experience as a defender of the people, combined with my vision and commitment for all of us to have a better life, are positive qualifications to serve the good people of District 36," said Muñoz, who is seeking the March 2010 Democratic Party primary nomination. House District 36 includes Granjeno, Hidalgo, southern McAllen, most of Mission, Palmview, Peñitas, and Pharr. "We all want what’s best for our families," Muñoz told his many supporters at the Corinthian Banquet and Special Event Center in Mission. "Working as an attorney in this region, I know what it takes to fight for people every day." See lead story later in this posting. 

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Douglas Matney, featured left, Vice President of Acute Care and Group Vice President for South Texas Health System, congratulates Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, for the lawmaker’s leadership in the advancement of health care in the Rio Grande Valley. Top officials with South Texas Health System presented Martínez with the “Community Leader Appreciation Award” in appreciation for his contributions to health care. In his professional life, Martínez plays direct roles in public safety and medical care as a firefighter, licensed paramedic, critical care flight paramedic, and Texas Department of Health instructor and coordinator. Hospital system officials noted Martínez’ important work on promoting and protecting Medicaid and indigent health care. In addition, the veteran lawmaker in 2009 was a key House author of legislation designed to bring a Veterans Administration Hospital to the Valley, and was a key House sponsor of legislation that will result in the  construction of a University of Texas Health Science Center – including a full-fledged medical school – in deep South Texas.  The South Texas Health Systems includes seven major facilities in Hidalgo County, including Cornerstone Regional Hospital in Edinburg,  South Texas Behavioral Health Center in Edinburg, Edinburg Children’s Hospital, Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Edinburg Regional Rehab Center, McAllen Heart Hospital, and McAllen Medical Center. 

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Rep. Aaron Peña  – joined by longtime former Congressman Kika de la Garza, D-Mission, and his wife, Lucille de la Garza –  during a Tuesday, October 27 fundraiser in Edinburg announced that he will seek a fifth two-year term to the Texas House of Representatives. “It has been a wonderful opportunity to serve my community these past eight years,” said Peña. “Our early optimism, hard work and willingness to build bi-partisan coalitions have paid off with a succession of several strong sessions and we need to build on that momentum. Success next session will be measured by our ability to wrestle for additional congressional and legislative seats for South Texas. When that monumental battle occurs, I want to be there alongside my colleagues fighting for this community.” See story later in this posting. 

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South Texas College students donated time and labor in partnerships with TXU Energy to give the Sepulveda family of McAllen a home energy makeover. STC students celebrate the completion of the project with instructors and the home owner. Featured, front row, from left:  STC Electrician’s Assistant Program students José Guerrero; José Lara; Pete Hinojosa; and Santiago Torres. Featured, back row, from left: STC HVACR Program Chair Guadalupe Hernández; STC HVACR students Robert Vallejo and Isaac Vázquez; homeowner Florencia Sepulveda; STC HVACR Students Brian Sweeten, Julio Villarreal, and Jorge Villasenor; and STC Electrician’s Assistant Program Chair Arnulfo Flores.  See story later in this posting. 

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On April 19 and 20, 2010, the Edinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau will join forces with the Regional 4 5/A Golf Tournament to be held at Los Lagos Golf Course in Edinburg.  Schools from across Texas, including Corpus Christi, Victoria, Del Rio, San Antonio and the Valley will be participating in the two-day golf event.  Almost 70 teams and 96 players and coaches will participate. For further information please contact the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. Featured promoting the event are, first row, from left: Joey Zamora; Héctor Zamora; Celso Gonzáles, Óscar Cárdenas; and Randy Spivey. Second row, from left: Noé Rico; Antonio Ocaña, III; Joe Peña; Anita Sinjlawi; Frank L. Garza; Joe Filoteo; John Haley; Imelda Rodríguez; Héctor González; Lisa Puente; José Luis Zarato. Third row, from left: Larry Kruse; Mike Smith; Orlando Garza; Ralph Wedgeworth; and Chico Jiménez. 

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The McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, November 14, held their 3rd annual Medical Awards Banquet, honoring seven individuals/organizations. “We are extremely excited to recognize and honor the medical community as it plays a very important part in our daily lives” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC president and chief executive officer. "The nominations have been increasing every year, thus making it harder for the Judging Committee from Austin to make their determination as to the annual winners.” Featured, from left: Hari Namboodiri, Las Palmas HealthCare Center, Nursing Home of the Year; Dr. Juan Campos, Physician of the Year; Sandra Tovar, Nurse Practitioner; Elisa Gutiérrez, Nurse of the Year; Rolando Velasquez, Physicians Assistant; Dr. Filiberto Rodríguez, Specialty Physician; and Greg Seiler, CEO of Rio Grande Regional Hospital. See story later in this posting. 

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Lawmakers working on major CHIP expansion to help both low- and middle-income families, says Rep. Flores

 

President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during Memorial Day commemorations at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on Memorial Day, May 25. After being introduced by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President told an audience gathered inside the Memorial Amphitheater that Arlington’s hallowed grounds contain the remains of, “presidents and privates, Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God.” See story later in this posting. 

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South Texas Health System, which was recently awarded a contract by the Veterans Administration to provide medical care and treatment to veterans in South Texas, will be holding an enrollment fair at Edinburg Regional Medical Center on Saturday, June 20, from 8 a.m. to noon. The Hidalgo County Veterans Services Office will be onsite with applications for health care benefits. Veterans will be required to complete an application (form 1010-EZ) and provide a copy of their DD214 (discharge papers) for enrollment.  Edinburg Regional Medical Center, located at  1102 W. Trenton Road,  is part of a network of Hidalgo County hospitals, including McAllen Medical Center, featured here recently, when it announced it was going to provide VA medical services at that location. Valley veterans and their families are invited to attend the June 20 event in Edinburg, where a variety of health screenings for the veterans and their families will be provided. In addition, family entertainment, food, and many door prizes will also be available.  For more information, contact Edinburg hospital officials at 388-2036. 

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Óscar Longoria Jr., featured second from right, was sworn in on Thursday, May 21, as the District 2 trustee for South Texas Community College. He succeeds Irene García, who last November had to resign her post at STC because she had been elected to the Mission school board, and state law prohibited her from holding both positions at the same time. Longoria, 27, is an attorney, and is the youngest person to serve on the STC Board of Trustees. In a special election in April, he defeated Graciela Farias and Connie Garza. Longoria, who is a resident of Mission and native of La Joya, represents the constituents of La Joya, western Mission, Palmview, Sullivan City, Penitas and western Alton. Featured with him are his parents, Óscar, Sr. and Rosa, along with his brother, Jason.  See story later in this posting.

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Ana De Luna, a collection specialist with the Hidalgo County District Clerk’s Office, on Wednesday, May 20, was honored with the Collector of the Year Award by the Government Collectors Association of Texas. This award is presented to the collector selected as having had the greatest impact on collections efforts for their respective city or county in the past year.  The local county’s Collections Department also received the Excellence in Service Award, which is presented to programs selected for unselfishly providing assistance to others embodying the elements of dedication, commitment and service to the association and its membership. The association consists of professionals from across the state of Texas responsible for the collection of funds for the governmental entities for which they are employed and is devoted to the education, strategies, techniques and tools for judicial collections. Ms. De Luna is featured here with her colleagues, during a ceremony celebrating her award. “I feel very honored and privileged for having received such a prestigious award which reflects the collection efforts our county strives for.  I am so thankful for the wonderful supervisory leadership I have and the support of my co-workers.  It is through team work that we can achieve our goals,” said De Luna. She has been employed with the district clerk’s office since August 2007 and will continue serving in her capacity as a Collections Specialist. 

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House panel preserves option to upgrade Edinburg RAHC into UT medical school, says Rep. Martínez

A second Edinburg war hero – the late Pedro Cano – could soon join an elite group of Texas veterans who have been bestowed the state’s highest medal for valor – the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – under a bill introduced on Friday, April 17, by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

Family members for Cano – who is featured here during ceremonies honoring him in downtown Edinburg more than 60 years ago – are among the special guests invited to participate in a special presentation on Saturday, April 25, while Peña’s measure continues through the legislative process. The April 25 gathering,  which is free and open to the public, is also being organized by the Edinburg lawmaker. It will begin at 10 a.m. on the western plaza of Edinburg City Hall. More than half a century ago, the city of Edinburg dedicated April 26, 1946 as Pedro Cano Day. On that day, businesses closed, schools were dismissed, a parade was held and more than 4,000 people witnessed the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, to the 25-year-old South Texan. Only six Texans have been bestowed the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, including its most recent recipient, the late U.S. Marine Sgt. Alfredo "Freddy" González of Edinburg, who was posthumously awarded the honor in February 2008, during a public ceremony in Edinburg which featured his mother, Dolia González, and Gov. Rick Perry. See story on Pedro Cano later in this posting. 

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Amanda Lira, who attends Economedes High School, hugs her mother, Delma Lira Sánchez, during a ceremony earlier this month at the University of Texas at Austin, where Amanda was one of two South Texas high school students honored as Migrant Students of the Year. Texas has the second-largest migrant education program and the largest interstate migrant student population in the nation. Students and their families migrate annually from Texas to 48 other states to work in agricultural and other seasonal jobs. The Liras were joined in this portrait by Dr. Judy C. Ashcroft, UT’s Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education, and Dr. Felipe Alanis, UT’s Associate Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education and Director of the K-16 Education Center. See story later in this posting. 

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Deyanira Castillo of Weslaco celebrates with her mother, María Castillo, after Deyania was one of two Texas high school students honored by the University of Texas at Austin as Migrant Student of the Year. Since it was begun more than two decades ago, the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program has enrolled more than 22,000 students in its mission to increase the graduation rate of high school migrant students in Texas. With funding from the Texas Education Agency and gifts from the Beaumont Foundation of America, the Exxon Mobil Foundation, the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation, the program helps Texas migrant students earn high school credits through distance learning courses that meet Texas curriculum requirements. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, honored members of the Zonta Club of Brownsville on Tuesday, April 14, at the Texas Capitol with a Senate Resolution commending them for their contributions to the Brownsville community and congratulating them on their 50th anniversary. Zonta is a worldwide service organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy. There are over 32,000 members in 1,255 clubs in 67 countries. Featured, from left: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Danita Utsman, Zonta District Governor; Rosalie Gutiérrez, Brownsville Zonta President; Lee Ann Greer, Zonta Vice President; Brenda Pérez, Public Relations Chairwoman; Brunilda Villarreal and Minnie Lucio (wife of Sen. Lucio), Conference Co-Chairs, and Sen. Lucio. 

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As nation celebrates freedom, Freddy González, icon of courage, posthumously honored by Texas

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In this file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a Tomahawk missile is fired from the USS Alfredo “Freddy” González, a $900 million guided missile destroyer named in honor of the late Marine Sergeant from Edinburg, who was killed in action during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Forty years after his death, González – whose mother, Dolia, lives in Edinburg – has been honored by his home state. In mid-June, Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a proclamation posthumously bestowing the state’s highest military honor – the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – upon the Edinburg war hero. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, recently provided a legislative update to her constituents in McAllen, which included news that Gov. Rick Perry had signed into law a measure that will make it easier for working families in Texas to enroll their children in the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program. The expansion of CHIP to almost 130,000 more children ranks among the biggest victories for health care to come out of the recently concluded 80th session of the Texas Legislature, says the Texas Border Coalition, which lobbied for the improvements to CHIP. See story later in this posting.

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Robert Gandy, III, president of First National Bank of Edinburg, on Tuesday, June 26, provided an update on plans by the local financial institution to eventually create a $100 million corporate bank headquarters/retail development in west Edinburg. Gandy, who addressed the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation during its board session, said up to $2 million has already been spent by the bank to lay the groundwork at the 115-acre site, and the first building should begin going up later this fall. See story later in this posting.

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