The combination of the country’s highest uninsured rate and a stressed Medicaid program threaten not only the health of millions of Texans, but also the health of the economy, Texas Medical Association President Doug Curran, MD, says.
TMA’s Healthy Vision 2025 ¾ released this week ¾ urges the Texas Legislature to take meaningful steps to make it easier for every Texan to see a physician.
For more than a decade, Texas has held the dubious title of “Uninsured Capital of the United States.” And for the first time in a decade, the number of children without health insurance increased in 2017. The friction created when 17 percent of the population lacks health insurance threatens to slow Texas’ booming economy. It increases costs to taxpayers and insured Texans, and heaps unpaid expenses onto physician practices and hospitals.
Meanwhile, Medicaid and other safety-net programs struggle to meet their mandates. Texas physicians say below-cost payment rates, incessant bureaucratic hassles (for physicians and patients), and a confusing maze of not-well-connected delivery systems are primarily to blame. Patients end up seeking far too much primary care and routine care in emergency departments.
TMA’s prescription to enhance access to health care includes innovative coverage models for the working poor, competitive Medicaid payment rates, a revolution of simplicity and transparency for all of the state’s health programs, further investments in cost-effective ways to grow the physician workforce, and more progress on telemedicine.
“We want access to care for all Texans,” Dr. Curran said during a Healthy Vision sneak preview for TMA leaders Saturday. “That means proper payment for Medicaid service and insurance coverage for our working poor. And that means more federal dollars ¾ dollars Texans have been sending to Washington for years but that get spent in other states.”
Dr. Curran said he hopes the state’s business-friendly lawmakers will be swayed to adopt TMA’s recommendations by an argument that goes beyond health care.
“If you keep people healthy, they’re producing, they’re generating, they’re keeping things going,” he said. “But if that populace is not properly cared for and supported and empowered, then we’ll see the people that we really need to keep our business environment pristine begin to drift away. It’s going to hurt all of us.”
TMA staff and leaders already have delivered Healthy Vision 2025 to all 181 members of the legislature, to the Capitol press corps, and to other key players. For the next two weeks, a TMA campaign of paid advertisements and social media outreach will further promote the document and its legislative recommendations.
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