Photo: STEPHEN CROWLEY, STF
Two Houston health leaders pleaded with Texas’ Republican U.S. senators in a letter this week to think long and hard before approving their party’s health-care reform bill currently being crafted in Washington.
George Masi, president and CEO of Harris Health System, one of the nation’s largest public health-care systems, and Ken Janda, president and CEO of Houston-based insurer Community Health Choice, are part of a chorus of 25 state health advocacy groups signing on.
The letter warns of a potentially devastating toll to Texas’ most vulnerable populations if the proposed American Health Care Act, or Trumpcare, passes the Senate in its current form. The bill narrowly passed the U.S. House last month.
The House measure has been harshly criticized by a host of health-care groups for stripping coverage and reducing medical access for millions of Americans.
Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas both sit on the panel working on the bill behind closed doors. It is not known when the bill will come to a vote, although Cornyn has said he is hoping for later this month.
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Under a proposed per-capita cap, Texas could lose an estimated $1.5 billion per year in federal Medicaid funding. Many health advocates fear that eligibility will be tightened and programs will be slashed unless the state makes up the shortfall.
Texas already is tied with Alabama for having the strictest Medicaid eligibility threshold in the nation.
The vast majority of those receiving the benefit are poor children, the letter said.
“We call on you to stand up for Texas children, pregnant women, seniors and people with disabilities,” reads the two-page letter dated June 15, referring to the four primary groups that rely on Medicaid for health care. “The decisions that you and other senators make in the coming weeks will influence the health and well being of these Texans – and therefore the success of all Texans – for decades to come.”
The letter asks Cruz and Cornyn to “fight to ensure that our state receives its fair share of health-care funding and avoids passing the buck to Texas county governments to use local property taxes to pay for our uninsured working-poor adults.”
Both senators’ offices said Friday they received the letters. While neither addressed it directly, both issued statements about their goals on health care.
“Sen. Cruz is committed to fighting for health care reform that puts patients first, that expands access to care and that establishes more affordable health care options for Texans in every corner of our state,” his office said in an email.
The statement described Cruz as “working in good faith with his colleagues from across the Republican spectrum to craft a bill that reflects these priorities.”
The statement from Cornyn’s office echoed that.
“We’ve not only heard from every member of our Republican conference, but are listening to our constituents, of course, and providers and doctors, hospitals, and others,” that emailed statement said. “As we get closer to a consensus on the best solution, my goal continues to make sure that Texans have more choices and more affordable coverage, and end the mandates and the tax hikes that have caused premiums to skyrocket, together with the individual mandate, which basically forces Texans and Americans to buy a product that they don’t want at a price they can’t afford.”