Health care (or lack thereof) in Rural Texas

March 17, 2017

By Rep. Gary VanDeaver

It won’t come as a surprise to many people, but hospitals in rural Texas are struggling to keep the doors open. The Texas Organization of Rural and Community hospitals (TORCH) reports that 15 hospitals in Texas have closed over the last four years. Also, the University of North Texas Health Science Center published a report in 2016, that said there are 35 counties in Texas that lack a practicing physician (https://www.unthsc.edu/newsroom/35-tx-counties/). Having spent all of his life in rural Northeast Texas, Rep. Gary VanDeaver (New Boston) knows firsthand the struggle to keep affordable, high quality health care available to area residents.

VanDeaver said “I have heard too many stories of families not only struggling to pay for doctors and hospitals but to even find any health care services nearby. Texas policymakers cannot forget that not every Texan lives in the Metroplex or in Houston and that every Texan deserves quality health care services.”

In a November 6, 2013 story by Lauren Silverman and produced by KERA (Dallas) it states that in Texas, “rural hospitals treat 15 percent of the population, but cover 85 percent of the state. In rural areas, patients are generally older, less healthy, and have less access to health insurance.” Here is a link to that story: http://breakthroughs.kera.org/rural-hospitals-struggling-in-texas/

The Washington Post published a story (“Rural hospitals, beset by financial problems, struggle to survive”) on March 15, 2015, citing the closure of a hospital in Mount Vernon, Texas, which is in VanDeaver’s House District. Mount Vernon and other rural communities across this state are struggling with how to provide needed medical care for their residents. Plus, there are no guarantees that additional hospital closures are not just around the corner as they struggle with a declining and aging population coupled with lower federal and state reimbursement rates.

In the 84th Legislature in 2015, Rep. VanDeaver passed House Bill 2280 and sponsored Senate Bill 1587 (Eltife) in the House to help address some of the funding challenges experienced by our smaller and more rural communities in trying to secure affordable access to health care. These bills allowed counties in Northeast Texas to take advantage of the Texas Transformation and Quality Improvement (1115) Waiver for health care funding to provide more health care options.

Now that we have a new president along with a Congress committed to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, VanDeaver went on to say that “we cannot miss this opportunity to restore sanity to our nation’s health care system because Obamacare has failed. We must strike a balance in reducing costs and administrative burdens while protecting access to health care for all Texans. Not only are lives of Texans at risk, the very viability of many small, rural communities are also at stake.”

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