Texas Doctor On Perrycare: ‘This Kind Of Thing Happens In Somalia’

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) blames the federal government’s inflexibility in granting Medicaid waiver for his state’s high uninsured rate and boasts that the Lone Star State still has the best health care system in the world. “The fact is, people continue to move to the state of Texas, some of the highest rates in the country because we’ve created a state where opportunity is very much the word of the day there, if you will, for finding work and what have you,” he said during the GOP presidential debate on Thursday. “Our health care is part of that. Our education is part of that. We are proud of what we put together in the state of Texas.”

But as the Tracy Jan details in today’s Boston Globe, many working Texans who don’t have an offer of employer based insurance or qualify for Medicaid, are falling through the gaps of the state’s patchwork health care system, relying on a complex web of community health care centers and charity care for basic health care services. The results are often deadly:

Dr. Katherine Yudeh King, a pediatrician at Ben Taub General Hospital, which serves a large uninsured population, said one of her patients, a 15-month-old boy, died from dehydration due to diarrhea because his family brought him to the hospital too late, assuming they could not afford care.

This is the type of thing that happens in Somalia and other developing nations, not something that should happen in Houston,’’ said King, one of the founding members of Doctors for Change, a group that advocates for universal health care in Harris County.

Bellow are nine other indicators of the state’s dilapidated health care system:

1) Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country – 24.6 percent – and the number of uninsured that has grown by 35 percent during Governor Rick Perry’s 11-year tenure.

2) Overall health care quality for Texas is poorer than in every other state, especially when it comes to preventive, acute, and chronic care, as well as care for diabetes.

3) Texas places 39th among the states in the percentage of adults over 50 who receive recommended screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies.

4) A fifth of Texas’ pregnant women receive no prenatal care in their first trimester.

5) 16.8 percent of children are uninsured, more than all but one other state, and only half of Texas children have a medical provider who knows them and coordinates their care. More than a third of them have not received recommended medical and preventive care within the year, and immunization rates are low as well.

6) Texas also ranks last in the country in the percent of children who receive needed mental health care.

7) The state cut two-thirds of the funding for women’s health clinics and underfunded Medicaid by almost $4 billion, in addition to cutting hospital reimbursements.

8) Perry vetoed a bill in 2001 that would have expanded Medicaid services and added cancer screenings such as Pap smears to women’s health services. In 2003, Texas tightened the eligibility requirements for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and as a result, 237,000 children were kicked off its rolls, said Garnet Coleman, a Democratic state representative from Houston who has served in the Texas Legislature for 20 years and is a member of the House Public Health Committee.