Forging an innovative path on health care

We live in a great state. Our economic growth is unrivaled. Unemployment is consistently below the national average. We lead the nation in job creation. We have shown that doing things The Texas Way is the right way.

For all this greatness, however, we lag behind other states in one major area — a quarter of Texans have no health insurance, more than any other state in the nation.

Despite federal health care reform’s new coverage opportunities, the rate of uninsured in our state has barely budged. The latest estimate is that 23.5 percent of the state’s residents have no insurance, even though we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of Texans are earning a paycheck but still lack access to health insurance because coverage is not offered as an employee benefit or it is simply unaffordable at their income level.

The federal government has indicated it is willing to work with us on developing a uniquely Texan, private market based coverage plan. Here’s what such an innovative healthcare plan could look like:

  • Reduce the number of uninsured Texans.
  • Improve statewide access to health care services for low-wage working Texans.
  • Require personal responsibility.
  • Promote responsible utilization of health care services.
  • Promote primary care and prevention.
  • Ensure state fiscal responsibility and efficient management of the program.

Other states are forging innovative paths to offer coverage to their uninsured low wage working families. Arkansas, Indiana, and Utah are all pursuing solutions that leverage the strengths of the private market and require individual responsibility for health and health care. The details of each state’s solution vary, but all reduce the burden of uncompensated care for hospitals and other providers and, most importantly, connect the uninsured to a health care system.

What a Texas plan ultimately looks like will depend on the outcome of an open and honest conversation between the federal government, Texas lawmakers and a broad coalition of stakeholders that includes Texas health care providers, the business community and the people we serve. Texas is a large and diverse state, and we need a Texas-specific plan that reflects our state’s character and meets our needs. We can, however, use what other states are doing to build our solution by picking and choosing from their approaches and learning from them.

Together, we need to stand up for Texans and lead The Texas Way. It’s not too late!

The stakes are too high to continue doing nothing. Inaction means that more and more of our friends and neighbors will remain uninsured — relying on hospital emergency rooms for health care, increasing health care providers’ uncompensated care and adding costs for the privately insured and for property taxpayers. 

Texas has a long history of being a leader in our country. Let’s stand together and continue to lead the way by ensuring that all Texans have access to the healthcare they need. Our state has an unprecedented opportunity to lead — The Texas Way.

Brett A. Esrock, Glenn A. Robinson, Dr. T. Marc Barrett and Dr. J.E. Morrison, Texas Way

Brett A. Esrock, FACHE, is president and CEO of Providence Healthcare Network. Glenn A. Robinson, FACHE, is president of Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center. T. Marc Barrett, M.D., is senior vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer of Providence Healthcare Network. J.E. Morrison, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., is chief medical officer and senior vice president of Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center.