Health

Latest Columns

Don't increase the hassle factor of Medicaid medicines

Physicians and patients need a transparent process for determining which drugs are covered by the state’s Medicaid Vendor Drug program and ultimately, who is making the decision as to what is best for the patient. The health care community treating patients and the patients affected should be able to provide feedback on why certain medications should be accessible.

A bill to aid deaf children needs to be “heard” in the Legislature

As we reach the end of a legislative session surrounded by hundreds of bills that died on the vine, there is one that stands out as worthwhile and urgent: Senate Bill 354, the Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids bill (known as “LEAD-K”). This bill would ensure that deaf children arrive at kindergarten with language milestones commensurate to their hearing peers.

With step therapy, patients don’t get the best treatment

The decision for what medication to use and when to use it is based on the patient’s medical condition, his or her history and myriad other factors that are based on a deep knowledge of the drugs, condition and patient preferences and goals. Only the physician and the patient know what choice will be best for that patient. Not the insurance company.

You’re too young to be a grandma

Parents are uniquely positioned to help kids understand the choices they make during their formative years and the consequences they carry. Specifically, you have the opportunity to help your teenaged kids avoid becoming pregnant (or getting someone pregnant).

Let us help kids in foster care

Only one of every four foster care providers in Texas is a faith-based organization. Providing conscience protection for families will enable pastors to encourage loving families to be part of a caring network for these children and to stop worrying that potential lawsuits will take limited resources away from the people we should be helping.

Better temporary care for foster children in Texas

Keeping children in their existing communities will bolster security and reduce the stress of being taken from their home. By becoming temporary caregivers, community members could test the waters before becoming foster parents and simultaneously expand the pool that Child Protective Services can use for placements.

Nurses are not physicians

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) perform a vital, important function in our health care delivery system. However, they are not physicians, any more than I am a nurse. Texas is correct to keep its team-based care approach. It ensures patients receive care from each member of the patient care team, based on his or her knowledge, training and expertise.

Finally, a health care model that drives down costs. Don’t break it.

Everyone knows the costs of the American health care system are epically high. But health centers keep costs down, saving the system $24 billion per year by keeping people out of costly emergency rooms for things like an earache or cold. But a rash of policy decisions coming out of Washington this year won't retain or improve health centers' delivery model. 

A proven way for Texas lawmakers to improve primary health care access

Despite growing evidence and a body of research showing favorable patient outcomes and excellent quality of care in states where advanced practice registered nurses have full practice authority, Texas still prevents them from doing what they can do and what patients desperately need. As a result, Texans who could be treated by an APRN have no care at all.

An opportunity to do more for Texans with intellectual disabilities

Some truly outstanding people work in the living centers. They make herculean efforts to improve the quality of life for residents. However, they’re fighting against a rip tide that can drown the most determined caregiver. Direct care is one of the most difficult jobs: turnover is outrageously high, and as a state we provide few incentives to keep doing it—let alone to do it well.

The struggles of negotiating with health insurers in Texas

Insurance carriers driving out high-quality providers with unfair practices does not serve consumers or their communities. It limits access to timely emergency care. Don’t be fooled by the false narrative that freestanding ERs avoid contracting with health plans for financial benefit. Insurance companies should improve their networks and offer fair payment to the freestanding ER industry.

The problem of children having children

Three years ago, I visited a children’s shelter and learned about a 14-year-old mother with two children. The child-mom and her babies were in the Texas foster care system. Legally, Texas was the parent of all three: all three vulnerable children at risk for more abuse, poverty, and a lifetime on welfare.

A better place to build a wall

For President Trump, improving the security of Americans lies in bolstering a defense system that is “stretched far too thin.” This affirms a Republican ethos on safety and security and yet we know, from years of work in economically distressed communities, that these cuts target the very security systems — social, educational, emotional and health — that children rely upon to survive and thrive.

Invest in better food — and build a better economy

A food retail incentive fund would provide financial assistance to businesses looking to expand healthy retail into "food deserts" while also attracting additional private and philanthropic dollars to further bolster development. This novel approach would unleash the power of the free market and create businesses and jobs.

To help address foster care tragedies, better understand and listen to youth

Working collaboratively with youth and valuing their perspectives is a key part of the solution to the state's foster care problem. Young people are telling us something when they run from care, and it is time to start listening. They often know what works best for them and research suggests that allowing youth to participate in decisions about their lives may help them heal.

Answering the call for Texas’ children

The Texas Legislature, on average, has consistently funded only 80 percent of what it costs to provide for children in foster care. On average, community foster care and partner providers who provide specialized services for acutely traumatized children lose money every day they care for a child.

The case for banning powdered alcohol in Texas

It’s such a bad idea that more than 30 states have already banned powdered alcohol completely – even Louisiana! Texas should follow their lead by passing a ban instead of creating regulations that could help establish a market for powdered alcohol in our state.

Texans suffer under continued attacks on women’s health funding

Years of hostile policies have already left tens of thousands of Texas women without access to cancer screenings, birth control, HIV tests and other preventive care. It’s time for politicians to get serious about helping Texans access quality, affordable health care and allow Planned Parenthood health centers to fully participate in Texas’ health safety net.

What insurance companies aren’t telling you about FEC charges

Yes, ER visits are expensive. Consumers are paying to have highly trained staff and millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and pharmaceuticals on hand to save their life. And that is why consumers need to start listening to ER doctors when they say that an injury or illness does not require emergency care.

Saving children from the system meant to protect them

CPS intervention separates over 30,000 children from their parents each year. Seizing children should be the last resort. State custody presents risks to children that dirty homes, disconnected utilities, and differences of opinion on what constitutes good parenting simply do not justify.

Changing the conversation around abortion

As Texas-based abortion funds that work directly with people most impacted by abortion restrictions (the majority of whom are low-income women of color who are already parenting), we know that the fight for reproductive rights and justice is about more than the right to choose an abortion — it's about real access and affordability when that right is already established.

Texas and Medicaid: How big can you dream?

If Texas controlled its own Medicaid program and received a no-strings federal block grant, we could change everything: radical administrative simplification, eligibility standards, verification processes, insurance packages, “work requirements” and reimbursement schedules.

Legislative action for young parents in foster care?

These mothers were struggling parents in the beginning — but their stories also reveal messages of resilient and accomplished parenting. We need to understand more about the struggles and successes of parents who have experienced foster care, to identify these youth and offer them the care they need and deserve.

Doctors dislike surprise medical billing, too

In practice, doctors generally charge higher rates and insurers generally pay lower rates; when they can’t agree, the patient gets a surprise bill. Since we live in a free society, it is reasonable to support both the physician and insurance company positions, but it seems unfair to place the patient financially in the middle of this difference of opinion between businesses.

Will ‘Pro-Life’ Bills Actually Save Lives?

Texans have again sent to the Legislature a pro-life majority, which includes some who merely profess that view for re-election efforts. Regardless, voters across the state expect those campaign promises to be upheld, protecting innocent unborn human life and safeguarding pregnant women.

Texas has a smoking problem

Texas should prohibit all forms of tobacco use on the grounds and campuses of all state agencies, including state institutions of higher education, and we should do everything possible to prevent kids from starting to smoke.

Texas' new frontier for HIV/AIDS

As we commemorate World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, our hope is health care providers, the public and policymakers in Texas realize the virus is still invading neighborhoods at astonishing rates, often so silently that increasing numbers of youth don't realize they are living with HIV.

A better way to fix health care

The Affordable Care Act, a sweeping law full of crushing regulations and burdensome mandates, has accomplished exactly the opposite of what President Obama naively promised while shattering the confidence of millions Americans in the process.

Medicaid expansion? No way!

Overinflated promises being made for expansion of Texas' Medicaid program remind us of two time-proven adages: "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is," and "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

What LifeWorks can say about the UT slaying suspect

I have been asked repeatedly over the past few days "what I can say" about LifeWorks' involvement with Meechiael Criner, the suspect in the death of UT-Austin student Haruka Weiser. If he is found guilty of this terrible crime, we will be left to debate whom is to be held responsible for his fate — himself alone, school bullies, foster care, parents? I hold no hope for an easy answer.

Abortion funds and activists are mobilizing for marginalized Texans

As a leader at an abortion fund in Texas, I see firsthand the consequences of restrictive anti-abortion laws — consequences that too often fall on people of color, non-english speakers, undocumented immigrants, LGBTQ people and those who are struggling financially.

Texas doesn't need Planned Parenthood

The recent decision made by officials at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to terminate Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood marks a step toward higher health and safety standards for women and children.

Access delayed is access denied

Texas politicians will go great lengths to make a necessary, legal, and constitutionally protected medical procedure nearly impossible to access in our state, with the greatest harms falling on young people, immigrant women, low-income families and those living in rural areas.

Lamar Smith’s lesson in congressional hypocrisy

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith’s record reveals a public servant staunchly on the side of protecting Americans’ privacy — unless you’re a victim of asbestos-related disease. In that case, he believes you should be required to make public large chunks of your sensitive personal information on the internet.

Space, the final health care frontier

Some Texans live in places so remote, they might as well be outer space. That's why many of the medical innovations that we’re developing for astronauts have the potential to improve the practice of medicine on Earth.

Why aren't we talking about health care?

It was supposed to be the No. 1 election issue this year, but it quickly faded. With Ebola now dominating headlines, it’s time for a rational debate over what we should’ve been talking about all along: health coverage.

How Texas kicked its big drug problem

A decade after an overmedication crisis in Texas’ foster care system was brought to light, the state has dramatically reduced psychotropic drug use among foster children. And understanding how Texas did it could be key to solving future policy problems.

Strike down Texas' new abortion rules

Politicians painted House Bill 2 as an effort to make abortion safer. The reality Texas women face today has exposed those claims for what they are: deceptive tactics that will ban abortion for most Texans and make women's health care less safe.