To protect the overall well-being of Texas, state leaders need to work with organizations like the Texas Medical Association to ensure that all Texans have access to health care coverage during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is the message TMA and 32 state health organizations wrote in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott this week seeking his support to enact comprehensive health care coverage initiatives.
“With less than six months to go before the 87th Texas Legislature convenes, now is the time to roll up our sleeves and devise a health care coverage plan for Texans by Texans,” the letter says. “With our input, along with that of your Strike Force to Open Texas and legislative leaders, we believe the state can rapidly design a meaningful, statewide health care coverage initiative … that will improve the health of all Texans, promote economic growth and prosperity, and ensure the viability of the state’s health care system.”
Specifically, the letter suggests seeking federal Medicaid funds to cover low-income working Texans, an option Texas has previously forgone.
Doing so would improve all Texans’ access to care, particularly as the state holds “the dubious distinction of being the uninsured capital of the country, with nearly one in five Texans lacking health care coverage,” the letter says.
The letter highlights several ways the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated Texas’ uninsured concerns. For instance:
- More than 3 million Texans have filed for jobless benefits since March.
- An estimated 659,000 working Texans lost coverage between February and May, a number that is expected to climb; and
- 362,000 jobs could be lost within Texas’ health care industry.
The letter also points out that the majority of uninsured Texans are low-income, working-age adults who have provided essential services during the pandemic, including grocery store clerks, bus drivers, janitors, and health care workers.
“Without meaningful health care coverage, the virus will particularly imperil a large swath of Texas’ workforce, including many of the very people on whom Texans depend to provide essential services,” the letter says.
All told, Texas’ high rates of uninsured have contributed to unsustainable uncompensated care costs for physicians, community clinics, and hospitals, the organizations write.
“Reopening the economy, as conditions warrant, will undoubtedly help. Yet the pandemic also is reshaping the economy in profound and unpredictable ways, making the job market more uncertain. As such, employer-sponsored health insurance likely will be slow to rebound,” the letter says. “In the new practice environment, physicians, hospitals and providers cannot easily absorb more uninsured patients as they struggle to stay afloat themselves.”
Organizations representing physicians, nurses, consumers, hospitals, long-term care providers, community clinics, and health plans signed on to the letter.