Hospital Reforms Are Not Enough to Solve Texas’ Uninsured Problem

Public and private health systems are transforming the way they provide care, but early results show it won’t be enough to address the needs of Texas’ uninsured.

You’ve heard of the uninsured, the folks who go to the emergency room because they don’t have health insurance? The ones who then can’t afford to pay the bill because treatment in the ER costs 10 times more than in a doctor’s office. That uninsured person whose bill is passed on to taxpayers and private insurers?

These are the people whose income is so low, they do not get Affordable Care Act subsidies. But Texas law excludes them from Medicaid, the joint federal and state health care program for the poor and disabled. According to an analysis by the independent Perryman Group, uncompensated care raises the average Texas family’s annual insurance premium by $1,800.

U.S. law and common decency dictate that hospitals never turn away those in need, but there is a more efficient way to provide care for the poor without overcharging those with insurance.

Providing everyone with preventive care would not only bring health care costs down, it could help the unhealthy get well enough to find and hold jobs. If the state's leaders would commit $15 billion over the next 10 years to expand Medicaid, the federal government has promised to commit $100 billion to make sure all Texans have access to health care.
June 1, 2014
Houston Chronicle