With the 2019 Texas Legislature now well underway, the time is right to issue a stark reminder: Patient care in Texas is at a critical crossroads. Let us collaborate thoughtfully and purposefully to choose the right path forward and improve the health of all Texans.
Among our concerns: Texas still ranks 47th nationally in active primary care physicians per 100,000 population. Not every Texan has timely access to affordable, quality lifesaving services. Not enough of our health care dollars are going to actual health care. Corporations are pressing harder to micromanage patient care decisions in an effort to boost profits. Insurance company abuses and network neglect create unnecessary barriers to patient care. Dangerously, unqualified providers are trying to make medical diagnoses and treatment decisions. Behavioral health and public health need much more of our attention. Too much of our state’s population is uninsured, resulting in the unenviable moniker of “Uninsured Capital of the United States.” Infant and maternal mortality rates are alarming. We are losing our state’s medical-school-trained doctors to residency programs in other states, where they most likely will stay and practice their art and craft of medicine instead of here in Texas where they’re desperately needed. And Medicare and Medicaid payments often don’t even cover the cost of patient care.
Texas is an amazing place: a booming economy; wide-open spaces; wonderful people filled with an optimistic, indefatigable spirit. We have world-class medical schools and research institutions. Our physicians and hospitals provide billions of dollars year in and year out in uncompensated care. Our proven liability reforms stopped medical lawsuit abuse. And we have thousands of dedicated and caring Texas physicians, from the super-specialists and Nobel Prize winners in the big-city medical centers to the solo-practitioner, primary care doctors in our smallest towns.
But stagnating payments and mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy are leading to rampant burnout, threatening the viability of too many physicians’ practices. Patient care in this ever-growing state is suffering. It doesn’t have to. Texas physicians have the perfect prescription to make patient care healthy again.
All of us — public officials, physicians, other health care practitioners, taxpayers, business owners, parents — must assume collective responsibility for improving and protecting patient care for all Texans. We should neither take our health for granted, nor be blind to that which is curable though proper patient care or legislative reform.
And advocate for legislative reform we will. Our nearly 53,000 physician and medical student members will participate in this legislative session in full force. We will visit Capitol and district offices and testify at committee hearings. We will educate and inform our elected officials about the problems and solutions as we see them from the front lines of health care.
In our just-released Healthy Vision 2025 report, the physicians of the Texas Medical Association share their individual stories that illustrate these problems, and we outline our solutions. We look forward to working with the members of the Texas Legislature and the agencies that oversee and regulate health care to achieve our healthy vision for the people of this great state and for those of us who have dedicated our careers to caring for them.
We invite you to help us fulfill our healthy vision for Texas.
Dr. Douglas W. Curran is the President of Texas Medical Association and a family medicine physician in Athens, Texas.