Months into the COVID-19 crisis, Texas and the country as a whole continue to adjust to the pandemic. In North Texas – an area Representative Colin Allred (D-TX) represents – positive cases are on the rise, along with hospitalizations. During this challenging moment, Representative Allred joined health care industry experts and regional business leaders in a virtual roundtable hosted Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) and Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) to discuss efforts to overcome the public health crisis.
The conversation focused on how Texans have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, the challenges the health care system has encountered, and innovations supported by health insurance providers that have made a difference. All participants agreed that enhancing what’s working and expanding access to quality coverage and care is critical to the nation’s health during the crisis and beyond.
Representative Allred expressed that in his district, the immediate priority is controlling the spread of COVID-19: “Through aggressive testing, contact tracing, and helping folks quarantine and isolate, we can limit the spread of the virus.”
In Texas, health insurers are working to make containing the virus easier. Shara McClure, Divisional Senior Vice President of Texas Health Care Delivery for BCBSTX, stated, “We’ve been extremely focused on COVID-19 for many months. When it comes to getting access to care, we’ve been focused on the three T’s, which are testing, telehealth and treatment.” She also expressed a need to close the gap for the underserved. Minority populations and those needing mental health care have tragically been hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.
Understanding the challenges Texans face – more than 1.6 million statewide have lost health care coverage – BCBSTX has reduced costs for telehealth services, established special enrollment periods for the uninsured and provided financial support for businesses and restaurants that provide employees coverage.
Ken Malcolmson, President and CEO of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce (NDCC), shared how his organization continues to collaborate with medical experts, local leaders and businesses to get the right information into Texans’ hands about how to stay safe and healthy, and how to support employers in the region. Charles Miller, Senior Policy Advisor for Texas 2036, expressed the importance of data-driven strategies to control the virus and, in the long term, better access to statewide health care data to improve policymaking decisions.
In addition to discussing the Affordable Care Act and the need to expand rural access and highlight value-based services for Texas patients, everyone agreed that telehealth services have proven to be a smart and affordable way for people to get the care they need amid the public health crisis, including mental health services
Overall, all participants agreed that allowing more people to access quality care and eliminating inequities that exist in the health care system need to be done collaboratively. Representative Allred thanked the business community for their work to keep the economy going and the bipartisan efforts by health care providers, insurers and community organizations to keep the Dallas-Fort Worth metro community healthy. He offered that while challenges remain – especially the ability of states, counties and cities to navigate budget shortfalls caused by the crisis – all stakeholders can continue working together to ensure people have the critical services they need. He pledged to keep working with his colleagues in Washington to find the solutions Americans deserve.