Texas health care innovation and care on right track

From its earliest days, Texas has been a place of big ideas and bold action. The pioneering spirit that shaped our state is alive and well in the thousands of researchers and medical professionals who make Texas a leader in biopharmaceutical research and development.

Across our cities and communities, these men and women are taking on the toughest diseases we face and finding cures that didn't exist a decade ago. Now, because of these trailblazing scientists, diseases that were killers just a few years ago are on their heels.

Twenty years ago, a person who contracted HIV/AIDS very often received a death sentence. Now, because of new medications, they can expect to manage their condition and live a full life.

Just four years ago, a patient with Hepatitis C struggled through years of medication therapies, with a looming threat of liver failure and a costly organ transplant. Now, thanks to breakthrough treatments, Hepatitis C has a more than 90 percent cure rate.

In curing diseases like Hepatitis C, these innovative medicines don't merely relieve the pain and suffering caused by the disease; they also help prevent the exorbitant costs and burden of long-term care and hospitalizations.

These discoveries don't happen in a vacuum. They require an environment that fosters and encourages innovation.

Texas strikes a balance between the private and public sector that works. For example, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) is a private-public partnership that is invaluable for pushing the boundaries of cancer research. CPRIT, with the guidance of an oversight committee, funds groundbreaking cancer research in a model that yokes public health resources to private researchers’ grit.

Our state Medicaid program is another example of a program that works. Per enrollee, Texas spends less on prescription drugs than almost every other state and manages costs efficiently. Currently, coverage for prescription drugs is determined by a panel of doctors and pharmacists who bring their professional expertise, not special interests, to the table. The Drug Utilization Review Board is meant to ensure patient safety and priority. As a result, across the vast state of Texas, patients know they will receive equal access to the life-saving medications they need regardless of where they live.

Some are proposing changes to our Medicaid structure to put formulary decisions, which determine what medications are covered at what rate, in the hands of insurers instead of doctors. Doing so would be misguided and would jeopardize a system that already works. It would take critical medical decisions out of the hands of patients and their doctors. And it would give the final word to insurers, who stand to benefit. 

It also risks creating a chilling effect on research and development. Texas prides itself on being the home of entrepreneurship and small business. Our growing economy has proven that our state thrives when we have a strong free market, without special interest meddling. We should keep our Medicaid program as it is: serving patients and protecting equal access.

We’ve seen the incredible strides human intellect and ingenuity can make in just the last few years. Imagine, as so many Texans before us have done, what discoveries lie just beyond the horizon.

Tom Kowalski, Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute

Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute is the Texas public policy voice for the healthcare and bioscience industry.