August 28, 2008

"What we see in Austin is failed leadership on health care. We need the courage and the will to provide basic and affordable health care coverage to every Texan."

Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh,

EL PASO –  Today, we learned that almost one in four Texans don't have health insurance.  When these Texans get sick, there is no doctor, there is no nurse, there is no care.  These Texans have just one choice—stay at home and take their chances.  

"What we see in Austin is failed leadership on health care," said Senator Shapleigh.  "We need the courage and the will to provide basic and affordable health care coverage to every Texan."

The U.S. Census Bureau released a report yesterday stating that 24.8 percent of Texans did not have health insurance from 2006 to 2007.  Texas is the national leader in uninsured residents.  

"In Texas, the least insured state, El Paso is the least insured large city," added Senator Shapleigh.  "In fact, not a single Texas large city reaches the national average for residents with insurance coverage – not Austin, not Houston, not Dallas."

For 12 years, Senator Shapleigh has worked to address the health needs of all Texans.  In 1999, Senator Shapleigh co-authored and served on the conference committee for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) bill and spearheaded El Paso's initiative to enroll more than 40,000 children with health insurance.  In 2005, he filed S.B. 70 to require governmental entities in Texas to give preference to contractors who provide their employees with health insurance.

Most recently, in 2007, Senator Shapleigh filed Texas' first universal health care bill—S.B. 1911.  Although the bill was never heard in the Senate, it raised awareness around the issue of health insurance and served as a first step in finding a real solution to universal affordable health care.  In 2008, his office released a biannual report called Borderlands: Ground Zero of Health Care in America, outlining the challenges and opportunities facing Texas health care (see file attachment).

While working Texans are denied these real solutions to a real problem, Texas leadership claims the problem has already been fixed.  The solution?  Emergency rooms.

John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank, told the Dallas Morning News today that anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, so the "uninsured" problem doesn't exist—at least on paper.  "So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved," he said.

In response, Senator Shapleigh said, "I invite Mr. Goodman to explain that to an uninsured mother of three when her child wakes with asthma in the dead of night.  I invite him to explain that to the millions of Americans in bankruptcy because of health-related debt.  That cold attitude, and the irresponsibility inherent in that view, is the heart of the challenge we face in Texas."

In the upcoming 81st Texas Legislative Session in 2009, Senator Shapleigh will continue his fight to provide basic health care for working Texas families.  Texas residents will see Senator Shapleigh file another universal health care bill in the Senate, as well as bills proposing to increase access to public and private wellness clinics, decrease health premiums with best-practice solutions, and increase CHIP coverage for more Texas children.   


Click on the icon below to read Senator Shapleigh's "Texas Borderlands 2009: Ground Zero of Health Care in America"

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