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LU nurse’s solution to Medicaid problem becomes law

Lamar University nurse, Nicole Schroeder, will soon see her proposal to improve healthcare for low-income moms go into effect as law Sep. 1.

When Nicole Schroeder, a LU nurse alumni pursuing her master’s degree in nursing, was tasked with
Dade Phelan, Nicole Schroeder
presenting a healthcare problem and solution to her state representative, she never dreamed it would become a law.

“I presented my issue to Dade Phelan. He was very receptive and asked me to email my legislative summary to him, and he would gather more information,” said Schroeder. “I did, and honestly, thought that would be the end of our interaction. To my surprise, I received an email from his office asking me to attend the legislative hearing at the Capitol.”

Schroeder found herself before a legislative committee in March 2019 advocating for HB 1576, basically her schoolwork transformed into proposed legislation.

Schroeder’s “Healthcare Policy and Finance” addressed a problem she witnessed working with a Nurse-Family Partnership, a City of Port Arthur Health Department program. The evidenced-based program for low-income, first-time mothers sought to enhance maternal-child attachment and decrease subsequent pregnancies. Despite its efforts, the local NFP site reported an increase in repeated pregnancy rates over a four-year period as high as 39% during some years. When the clients were surveyed, the resounding explanation given was poor access to care due to transportation issues.

To remedy the problem, Schroeder proposed to allocate monies for non-emergency medical transportation specifically for postpartum moms. Phelan liked the idea so much, he expanded the concept in HB 1576, suggesting the use of “transportation network companies,” like Uber and Lyft, to help meet the needs of not only postpartum Medicaid patients, but other Medicaid recipients, as well.

The bipartisan bill passed June 14, 2019 and will be effective Sep. 1.  expected to save the Medicaid system 34%.  According to a report in the March 2019 edition of the American Journal of Public Health, if Phelan’s idea was scaled nationally, the savings could reach $537 million annually while decreasing no-show appointments by as much as 50%.

“I’m really excited to see how it goes into effect and how it pans out,” said Schroeder, who graduated in May with her master’s degree and is now an instructor in the JoAnn Gay Dishman School of Nursing.  “At the time the legislation was introduced, I was right there in the middle of it with that population of patients so now I plan on touching base with some of my previous co-workers and finding out what changes they are seeing.”