By Clay Jenkins
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Texas residents benefit more than the residents of most states from healthcare reform and residents of urban counties with hospital districts, like Dallas County, benefit more than residents of most other Texas counties.
Consider this: Texas leads the nation in uninsured residents with one of every four Texans lacking health insurance. Dallas County rates are similar—a fact that contributes to the crushing burden on our public hospital. Dallas County taxpayers subsidize uninsured care by $400 million a year through the Dallas County Hospital District (Parkland).
Additionally, the average insured Texas family spends an additional $1,000 a year on premiums to pay for uncompensated care for uninsured patients.
Thankfully, the federal dollars have been allocated where our needs are greatest in the Lone Star State.
Health centers in Texas have received $95.8 million to create new health centers in medically underserved areas which increases the number of patients seen while expanding preventive and primary health care services. Eight of our state’s 379 centers are located right here in Dallas County, providing critical services for those who would otherwise likely find themselves in emergency rooms for primary care treatment.
Teaching health centers, like UT Southwestern, received money to create new residency slots. Doctors being trained here means they work, live and spend money here increasing our economic base.
Texas has also received funding to expand the Physician Assistant Training Program; to help school-based health centers provide more health care services such as screenings to students; and for programs that bring health professionals into the homes of at-risk families to focus on childhood early education, parenting skills, child abuse prevention, nutrition and health care.
Any parent with children educated outside of the home wants healthy kids sitting at the next desk. These programs make a real difference in a child’s health and development while also impacting their ability to learn.
Seniors in Dallas County on Medicare who were using grocery money to pay for their medicine found relief when they received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs. This discount resulted in an average savings of $639 per person, and a total savings of $134,754,191 for Texans. Another $250 rebate was offered to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs.
For too long many Americans were locked out of coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Why should having certain diagnoses prevent the ability for future or long term coverage? Thanks to the change in law, many previously uninsured Texans are now insured through a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created.
Finally, studies have shown that preventive care leads to the most positive health outcomes, especially as it relates to treatable cancers and other diseases. In 2011, 2,208,969 people with Medicare in Texas received free preventive services – such as mammograms and colonoscopies – or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. Another 3,836,000 Texans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing.
Every American benefits, directly or indirectly, from the Affordable Care Act. A healthier society means less doctor visits, less time off work for parents and caregivers, and continuity of care when prescription medicines are taken regularly and not just when extra funds are available.
Clay Lewis Jenkins is Dallas County Judge