Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) recently joined a virtual roundtable that connected health care leaders from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Texas Sanitas, and Every Texan. Moderated by Better Care America, speakers discussed the current state of health care in Texas, including access to care and ways to expand health coverage. The discussion also touched on social determinants of health impacting the Houston community and the need to expand Medicaid in the state.
Rep. Fletcher opened the roundtable with her concern for the large population of uninsured Texans, noting that Harris County – which she represents – has the highest uninsured rate in the state. Rep. Fletcher applauded efforts by Texas insurance providers to expand coverage, and stressed that more work must be done. Rep. Fletcher put her support behind Medicaid expansion in Texas along with other measures that would serve to close the coverage gap.
In the House of Representatives, Rep. Fletcher and her colleagues are working to address health care access more broadly. “We’re trying to lower costs by providing financial assistance for premiums, expanding the people that are eligible for health care on the exchanges and, of course, providing funding to hospitals and health care providers,” she said.
Shara McClure, Divisional Senior VP of Texas Health Care Delivery for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX), echoed the Rep. Fletcher’s concern for the large uninsured population in Harris County and in Texas more broadly. “We know that when individuals don’t have health insurance, they’re more likely to delay or forego care, and that can ultimately lead to higher costs and life-threatening situations.” McClure highlighted BCBSTX’s new low-cost HMO program “MyBlue Health Plan” that recently launched in Harris County, offering affordable coverage to residents at 138% to 200% of the poverty level. BCBSTX hopes to reach as much of the uninsured population as possible with this and other programs.
Mark Strickland, CEO of Texas Sanitas – which operates 10 primary care medical centers in the Houston and Dallas areas – noted that cost, along with access to coverage, is often a barrier to quality care. He shared with the roundtable how his organization’s partnership with BCBSTX is working to reduce health care costs for consumers.
McClure and Strickland also touched on their organization’s efforts to address social determinants of health – the socioeconomic factors that drive health outcomes. BCBSTX shared the success of its “Healthy Kids, Healthy Families” initiative that has awarded $1.8 million to nonprofits across Texas that focus on food insecurity, mental health, housing, and safe environments. And at Texas Sanitas’ six Houston-area clinics, $0 copay care is available to the area’s most vulnerable populations. Mark noted that these clinics often serve patients who had never seen a medical doctor prior to their visit.
Stacey Pogue, Senior Policy Analyst with Every Texan, noted her organization’s focus on assisting Texans with enrollment in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, especially during the current special enrollment period: “We help coordinate a state-wide network of trusted community organizations that help Texans enroll in Marketplace coverage … we’re looking forward to helping people take full advantage of enhanced subsidies from the American Rescue Plan.”
The roundtable ended with the participants agreeing that all stakeholders in our health care system must work together to expand access to quality care and address social determinants of health.