Ahead of debate, doctors remind Texans what’s at stake

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Democratic presidential candidates are busy preparing for the third major debate where they may again discuss healthcare, which has dominated the two previous debates and the number one issue for voters.

But ahead of the Houston debate on Thursday, doctors are reminding Americans what is at stake if the current administration and its plans for healthcare are carried into a second term.

“We’re here in Houston because the whole world is watching,” Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency physician and executive director for Committee to Protect Medicare and Affordable Care, said at a news conference near Hermann Park on Wednesday. “The world is watching whether the U.S. is going to choose affordable quality care, or continue to peel back the social safety net from the elderly, the sick and the middle class.”

Flanked by doctors and members that make up part of the nationwide advocacy group, Davidson said more than seven million Americans have lost their health insurance since 2017.

The numbers, cited from a Gallup survey from earlier this year, confirm what many Democrats and medical experts have long warned of: as the Trump administration dismantles Obamacare piece by piece without a substitute in place (or even being considered), more and more Americans are losing health insurance and getting bankrupt by medical bills. And doctors are seeing the results on the ground. 

“I practice at a place where the uninsured population is about two-thirds of every patient we see,” Dr. Cedric Dark, an emergency physician who works in Houston told the Signal. 

Dark, who also runs a health policy blog for doctors, said one of the things he sees most often are patients coming to his emergency room with a broken bone and not having the money or insurance to follow up with a more specialized doctor who can offer surgery or provide longer-term care. “And so, they wind up coming to see me back in our emergency department because we are the provider of last resort– and our orthopedist will see everyone as long as they live in Harris County and regardless of how much they earn.”

Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, a Houston area doctor who is running for Congress against Rep. Mike Mccaul of Houston, said that patients who visit him at the low-income care clinic he practices at have been rationing insulin. 

This week, new data by U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the uninsured rate in Texas grew for the second year in a row. The figure– the highest in the U.S. and almost twice the national average– represents roughly 5 million Texans without health insurance. 

Part of that increase has come from the Trump administration strangling the Affordable Care Act, such as removing the individual mandate penalty in 2017, and in 2018, weakening federal regulations for required health benefits in plans sold on the ACA marketplace. Blame also belongs to Texas Republicans, who have repeatedly refused to expand Medicaid offered by the ACA– essentially passing on free, federal dollars to pay for health care. 

“Now we know that toll of that decision,” Dark said. “Every three days, one person dies in Texas because the legislature did not expand Medicaid.”

Photo: Fernando Ramirez/The Texas Signal

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