Tag Archives: Medicaid expansion Texas

Without Medicaid Expansion, Harris County Healthcare Workers Laid Off

Home to an estimated 4.4 million people, there’s not too much that is small about Harris County, Texas.  It is the 3rd-largest county in the United States of America, and of course is the home for most of the city of Houston.

As a rapidly-growing county, no one should be surprised that there is also a rapid need for expansion of health services.  So many people may be shocked to hear that one of the country’s largest public health systems is actually laying people off this week, with more lay-offs possible in the near future.  And as Kyrie O’Connor of the Houston Chronicle notes, these lay-offs have little to do with falling oil prices…

Facing an expected budget shortfall of $71.8 million, Harris Health System is in the midst of laying off about 113 employees, an agency spokesman confirmed Tuesday. A number of vacant positions where employees have already left won’t be filled, bringing the total to 261.

Harris Health, formerly known as the Harris County Hospital district, is the county’s primary public health service agency serving low-income people. It employs 8,237 workers.


Harris Health officials have blamed the deficit on several factors, chief among them the state’s decision not to opt for expanded Medicaid from the federal government. They also cite decreased payments to the agency from other federal programs. Expanded Medicaid would have offset those cuts. Harris Health says it has expanded its services in recent years in response to growing demand.

“We are this community’s safety net health system. Nobody provides healthcare to those most in need better than Harris Health,” Masi said. “We will continue to deliver high-quality health services as efficiently as possible with the resources we have available.”

The board is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider proposals to offset the $71.8 shortfall and possibly to tentatively adopt a budget. At last week’s meeting, the members discussed the possibility of approving a budget with a $11.8 million shortfall, to preserve as many of the threatened patient services as possible.

Harris Health officials state that this round of lay-offs “will not result in a cut in services”, which is hard to believe at this point.  And even if that is the case, what happens when the next round of cuts come through??

These people do not have to lose their jobs at all, as legislators in Austin have it in their power to accept the Medicaid Expansion, or come up with a unique Texas solution right now.  But thanks to their selfishness, real Texans are paying real consequences.  As smart Republican leaders like Harris County Judge Ed Emmett already know, it is anything BUT Conservative to be letting go of health professionals in a place growing as rapidly as Harris County.  It’s time to drop the political games around the ACA and do what’s best for Texas.

These may be the first round of area layoffs due to the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid, but they likely will not be the last.  If you ever cared about this issue enough to write your lawmakers in Austin, now is the time to do it.

Are Texans At Greater Risk Of Disease Outbreaks?

Even with the surprising and unsettling mistakes that have transpired as Dallas County officials try to contain the nation’s first confirmed Ebola case, people are still at far reduced risk when compared to nations with less advanced health systems or monitoring techniques.  With the eyes of the nation fixated upon the spread of this disease, Texans should know that every effort is being made to combat any further impact on the state’s population.

But Ebola is not the only infectious disease out there.  Lots of other health risks exist, many of which are not put in the national focus as has been done with Ebola.  Meanwhile, Texas remains the state with the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation.  Eventually a correlative question has to be asked…

With so many of our poor left uninsured due to the state’s refusal of healthcare expansion, is Texas also left at greater risk of a major disease outbreak?  

It’s a tough question to answer, but the first step is to take a look at the state’s uninsured population, and realize that they aren’t just “lazy people with no job on Welfare”.  From the Texas Medical Association, here are a few interesting facts about the state’s uninsured population…

According to a summary of national data by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), groups with a high likelihood of lacking health insurance include:

  • People in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level;
  • Hispanics;
  • Young adults, age 19 to 34;
  • People in families in which the adults worked either part-time or only part of the year; or
  • Individuals in fair or poor health status who are significantly more likely than others to be uninsured for longer periods.

Texas workers are less likely to have employment-based health insurance coverage than those in other states. 50 percent of all companies in the US offer health coverage for their employees.  In 2012, Texas ranked 42nd in the nation, with only 45 percent of Texans having employment-based health insurance coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports 63 percent of the uninsured have at least one family member who works either full-time or part-time in 2011 to 2012.


The uninsured are up to four times less likely to have a regular source of health care and are more likely to die from health-related problems. They are much less likely to receive needed medical care, even for symptoms that can have serious health consequences if not treated. About one in four Texans lives at or below the poverty level; for children, it’s nearly one in three.

So just think about that for a second… a large number of the uninsured population in Texas are people that are working, but likely in low-wage jobs.  They are waitstaff at restaurants, taking clothes at the dry cleaners, preparing delicious beverages at a favorite coffee place.  In other words, Texans without insurance are you and me. When they , we, are healthy,  everyone’s risk of health risks are lowered.

But when those Texans are sick and don’t go to get early treatment for fear of cost, everyone is put at greater risk.  And while it’s true that the simple act of having more people covered can never guarantee that people will take responsibility and see a health professional when needed, healthcare expansion would give a critical option to those that are now solely relying on the Emergency Room for their needs.  Early diagnosis saves lives, and is the best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

As voters make their decision this Fall, healthcare will undoubtedly be a central issue to those Texans that need it.  What people may not realize though?  That same decision could help protect us all, not just those that would be direct beneficiaries of expansion.

Texas Medicaid, CHIP Enrollment Sees Uptick, But…

There’s still a ways to go. 

Even without the help of a formal Medicaid expansion, it appears that more Texas residents are benefitting from the healthcare program.  Here’s the somewhat surprising news from the Texas Tribune…

More than 80,000 additional Texans have enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act last fall despite Republican state leaders’ decision not to expand eligibility to poor adults, according to federal figures.

The 80,435 new enrollees as of May — mostly Texans who already qualified for coverage but did not previously seek it — represent a 1.8 percent increase over pre-Obamacare figures. That places Texas, which has the nation’s highest uninsured rate, in the middle of the pack among states that chose not to expand access to those programs to everyone under 138 percent of the federal poverty line under the president’s signature health law. The expansion, a key tenet of Obamacare, was deemed optional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This “woodwork effect” or “welcome mat effect” — in which people hear about Medicaid expansions around the country and learn they qualify in Texas — has not been huge. Roughly 874,000 Texans eligible for Medicaid or CHIP have still not enrolled, according to Kaiser Family Foundation estimates. That includes more than 700,000 children, said Christine Sinatra, state communications director for Enroll America, a group seeking to get the uninsured covered under the federal health law.

Though the Tribune says that the “woodwork effect” is not significant yet, there’s still time to get information out there.  It’s quite surprising that these issues haven’t been discussed by Texas Democrats yet, especially major office seekers like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte.  Not only should the campaigns be seeking broader healthcare expansion options, but one would hope they and the campaigns could spread the word, and help get these people signed up for Medicaid and CHIP.  700,000 Texas kids should not have to go without essential health services.  Win or lose in the 2014 election, this is work that needs to get done.

Here’s a video on how to apply for Texas CHIP…

If you are a Texas resident and would like to check your eligibility for Medicaid, click here or call 877-541-7905. 
If you would like to check a child’s eligibility for CHIP, click here or call 800-990-8247.