I wanted to share a quick update on a few issues impacting healthcare in our state and here locally. On Saturday, September 22nd we will be discussing some of these issues more in-depth at Texas 101 Day. Scroll down for details and if you would like to save your seat, please click here.
According to a poll conducted by Gallup in late 2017, over 22 percent of Texans lack health insurance coverage. That’s nearly 1 in 4. And it’s the highest rate of uninsured in the nation.
Take a minute and let that sink in.
Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect in 2013, the number was even higher — an astonishing 27 percent according to Gallup. Thanks to the ACA, by 2016 that number dropped significantly to below 17 percent — a move in the right direction.
We all know what happened next and why the trend reversed — state and federal leaders became increasingly hostile to ensuring the availability of affordable and accessible health care coverage in our state and across the country. This is why Texas is on track to forfeit $100 billion of our taxpayer money slated for Medicaid expansion that could have served more than 1.1 million of our neighbors, expanded our economy, created new jobs, and improved the overall health of many in our state. But instead, we’re (still) ranked dead last in the rate of insured.
To add insult to injury, it’s our state’s attorney general leading the fight to strip pre-existing conditions protection from federal law. If Texas and the 19 other states that have joined them win this suit, an estimated 52 million Americans could be immediately impacted. In a rare move, the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice has refused to defend the law in court, further demonstrating that Republicans will do all they can to sabotage the ACA.
It’s the start of the school year and a good time to talk about the importance of immunizations. Last week, the Dallas Morning News reported that there is increasing concern among Texas health officials about the rising number of measles cases in the state. This is coupled with the rise in the number of Texas school vaccine exemptions, which increased by 4,000 to nearly 57,000 last school year. By comparison, that number was just 2,314 in 2003. Locally, from 2013 to 2018, the rate of exemptions for Arlington ISD increased by 72 percent and 47 percent in Mansfield ISD.
Last session, there was a movement to make these exemptions more accessible and easier for caregivers to get and submit to schools. That’s the exact opposite of what needs to be done. Thankfully, most Texans agree. In a recent survey, 86 percent of Republican voters polled support requiring children to be vaccinated before entering school.
In the same poll, a majority of those asked also supported the government playing a role in ensuring protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. This is critical. The increase in measles cases and recent outbreaks of mumps and other preventable diseases is further proof that our government must do more. This is about public health. Those opting out of lifesaving vaccines are not only putting their children at risk, but also many others, including those who are immunocompromised (including those living with cancer) and babies too young to receive vaccines.
Last week, I posted my reaction to Texas General Hospital’s license suspension. You may remember the controversy surrounding this Grand Prairie hospital a few years ago, when it was revealed that patients were receiving bills for five- and six-figure amounts for routine procedures and visits that should have cost a fraction of what they were being charged.
At the time, I asked the Office of the Attorney General, the Texas Department of Insurance and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to investigate. Unfortunately, state agencies were unable to identify any steps they could take to deal with Texas General’s excessive billing.
In recent months, in response to complaints and concerns about understaffing and safety issues, DSHS intervened. As a result, the agency suspended Texas General Hospital’s license pending an administrative hearing.