Texas Health Insurance And Health Care Quality Are Under Scrutiny

When it comes to shortening life spans and allowing premature deaths, Texas represents the national example of what not to do. Although millions are barred from Medicaid, Texas planners are not working to cover more people. More than one-fourths of the state’s population has no Texas health insurance coverage.

Texas continues to neglect higher numbers of uninsured residents than other states. It ranks 44th out of 50 states for health care spending per person, 49th for per capita Medicaid spending and dead last at 50th for mental health spending. Only the residents of two states (Mississippi and New Mexico) are less likely to get health insurance through employment than Texans are. It’s estimated that only 44 percent of Texans have access to coverage through an employer, which typically makes Texas health insurance plans more affordable.

Gaps In Health Insurance For Texas Correlate With High Death Rates

Texas may have a younger population than many states, but it still has more trouble with obesity and more people dying from diabetes and heart disease than some other states. At the other end of the spectrum (and the nation), only 10 percent of the people in Vermont need health insurance. With fewer insurance companies and major medical centers to confront, this little state has big ambitions. Even though Vermont’s residents fare better than Texans, leaders in Vermont have proposed one of the most comprehensive attempts to provide health care in the country.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin says that health care is a right and we should stop treating it as a privilege for accumulating wealth. He maintains that access to medical treatment should not be restricted based on your age, your employment or your health.

Speaking out on National Public Radio, Shumlin responded to critics who claim that providing health care can’t be done and has never been done with a reality check. “And I say, now, wait a minute, slow down. It’s actually being done by everybody else in the developed world except for us. And I see this as an economic development issue,” he counters.

The governor is promoting an idea beyond federal health care reform that even exceeds what Massachusetts has accomplished. He sees a universal, single-payer system to protect all residents that might be funded through a payroll levy on employers and employees. To that end, bills have passed both state houses and Shumlin expects to sign such legislation into law by 2014.

Shumlin believes that by breaking the link between employment and health insurance, they can ultimately create more jobs. Plus, Shumlin hopes a single-payer system can save Vermont and providers about 10 percent in administrative costs.

Expanding Health Insurance For Texas Is Not The Only Way To Improve Care

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius shares Shumlin’s vision. She says, “Everybody in America should have better health care and better costs.” Moving from expanding health insurance coverage access, Sebelius is now focusing on improving the quality of health care that’s available. Her goal is to cut down on preventable injuries in hospitals by 40 percent. She also hopes to reduce the need for people to return to the hospital after being released by 20 percent in three years. The benefit goes beyond patient needs.

Sebelius estimates that such health care improvements could save Medicare about $50 billion over a decade. It’s easy to see how lowering spending on health care can translate into more coverage for more people. Sebelius reminds us that the number of people who “die from harm in hospitals is more than the number of people who die annually as a result of AIDS, breast cancer and car accidents combined.”

A Texas Hospital Is Recognized For Upgrading Care

For the second time, Seton Medical Center has been singled out for improving the care it delivers. The State of Texas recognized Seton with a quality award for achieving near zero injuries while delivering babies. Then in May, Sebelius visited Seton saying, “I’m happy to shine a light on best practices as I travel across the country.”

Sebelius also introduced Seton’s staff to her Partnership for Patients initiative. The goal of the initiative is to improve health care, including reducing the number of new infections and injuries like birth trauma. Sebelius visited Seton because it has succeeded at keeping patients from being injured and from becoming sicker while hospitalized. The staff has also improved how patients transition from the hospital to another type of care.

Seton spokeswoman Adrienne Lallo explains, “We have dramatically reduced the rate of birth trauma and the incidents of hospital-occurring bed sores. The State of Texas recently gave us a quality award for being almost at zero in terms of injuries that occur during delivery.”

There is a big difference in care among providers. One way to improve your own health care is to check the providers that your Texas health insurance covers. Being able to get care from the best providers can be just as important as the price you pay for premiums.