Health care reform impact for Texas?

July 27, 2009 5:01:20 PM PDT
President Barack Obama is planning to stop in North Carolina and Virginia this week, trying to drum up more support for health care reform. Both Democrats and Republicans are divided over the cost and coverage of that health care plan. A group of lawmakers from Texas met in Houston Monday to talk about the impact health care changes could have in Texas. Those lawmakers were joined by medical experts, who told us that they want health care reform, but not at the expense of cutting health care itself. That's the same concern that we came across for patients.

Steve Gonzales says he never needed hospital care before. He recently lost his job and his health insurance, a double whammy that's made it more difficult to get the medical help he needs. Gonzales wants to see healthcare reform where everyone is treated equally.

"To me, myself, it would let me know that everyone is well taken care of and that everyone that came to the hospital wouldn't be concerned if they had insurance or if they would be seen or not," said Gonzales.

Gonzales helps to make up the majority of patients at the Harris County Hospital District. Over 60 percent of patients are without insurance, and 33 percent have some type of government assistance. Just over 5 percent have insurance or other funding.

In support of healthcare reform, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison appeared with medical leaders of the Harris County hospital district. Reform, says the senator, cannot happen by slashing federal reimbursements.

"The most important part that I am concerned about is taking away the Medicaid and Medicare hospital reimbursement that is so vital," said Sen. Hutchinson.

Dr. Vivian Ho has found otherwise. She teaches and studies health economics at the Baker Institute. Dr. Ho says less government reimbursement doesn't mean less money for hospitals.

"My understanding is that the administration is planning to increase the rate of health care insurance coverage for the uninsured that should reduce some of the financial pressure on hospitals so they should be willing to accept lower reimbursements because they are going to have to pay for fewer uninsured patients," said Dr. Ho.

The amount of the uninsured in Texas is massive. Over 5 million Texans don't have insurance. Of that, 72 percent have one person in the family working full-time. Sixty-eight percent of the state's uninsured are legal citizens.

"It's not about holding back any type of change. What we want is thoughtful careful change," said Dan Wolterman, CEO of Memorial Hermann Healthcare System.

It's a goal shared by patients who say they don't want to get priced out of getting health insurance.

"I have to pay too many other bills and to worry about health insurance, I would rather not have to worry about the price of health insurance," said uninsured Jasmine Hill.

Last week, Governor Rick Perry suggested he would consider invoking the state's rights protection under the 10th Amendment. He claims a federal government health care plan would be financially unstable and horrible for Texas.

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