Texas Liberal

All People Matter

UTMB, U. Of Texas Regents, & State Of Texas Happy To Let People Die For Being Poor

The number of the indigent patients being seen at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston has been cut drastically.

These cuts have been mandated by the University of Texas Board of Regents and by the Texas State Legislature.

From the Houston Chronicle—

“UTMB has been edging out of the charity care business for nearly a decade and last year devoted the smallest portion of its resources to charity in memory, dropping to 2.6 percent of patient services. Charity care is a money loser, and UTMB officials say the Legislature wants it to make money, not lose it ..The decline in spending on charity care fell from 20.6 percent of total patient services in 1999 to 2.6 percent last year, according to a chart prepared by Dr. Merle Lenihan based on UTMB’s annual financial reports. Lenihan is the author of a report by the Galveston County Cancer Coalition on the county’s lack of charity policies. UTMB filled a vital role in Texas by caring for the indigent since the 19th century. Those days are gone, said Dr. Ben Raimer, UTMB senior vice president. “I think it is a different world for UTMB, but it is a world of accountability,” Raimer said…In fiscal year 2006, UTMB cared for uninsured patients from 160 of Texas’ 254 counties. By 2009 that number had dropped to 83 counties. That trend has consequences for social service agencies like Jesse Tree, based in Galveston. The organization has seen a 75 percent increase in people seeking health care since Hurricane Ike..The agency is enrolling 1,000 applicants a month seeking everything from primary care to cancer treatment, Hanley said. “We’re coming apart at the seams,” he said. Hanley said the problem is acute because half of Galveston County’s 250,000 population is uninsured….”It is their responsibility, that is a historic one, for UTMB to provide services for those that are economically disadvantaged,” said Joe Compian, a member of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Campaign for Human Development’s local board. “It is a state institution. It is a local institution, as well, and that means it belongs to the people of Texas and let’s do right for the people of Texas…””I think it’s a travesty,” Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough said. “It should be an integral part of their mission. They are the state indigent care facility, and they have patients coming from all over the state.” Yarbrough is irked that Galveston County rode to UTMB’s rescue last year, but now it can’t even get a contract with the medical school to care for the county’s poor. State law allows counties to spend $30,000 per patient, but UTMB wants twice that….To meet a condition set by the Legislature for a state bailout of UTMB, the county raised taxes by 6 cents last year to pay for indigent medical care other than checkups, such as care for diabetes or cancer..Fortified with new legislative appropriations, UTMB has embarked on a $1 billion reconstruction effort, has plans for a new surgical tower and other buildings, and reportedly expects to finish this fiscal year in the black.”

Here is the web home of the Jesse Tree charity mentioned in the article.

There are many decent people who work at UTMB who want to care for all people. But the policy decisions are made at the top and they seem to reflect callousness.

“…A world of accountability” one UTMB senior official says. What?—Being accountable for death and suffering?

And while people suffer from the lack of insurance and lack of care, the State of Texas is fighting what will be a losing battle in the courts to overturn Health Care Reform.

Here is a web page that discusses the benefits of Health Care Reform.

Our State of Texas is acting in a barbaric manner in letting people die because they don’t have health insurance.

We don’t seem to have any standards of decency at all anymore. Everything is about money and about extremist small government ideology instead of concern for our fellow human beings.

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Texas Progressive Alliance Bloggers Take Phone Call With Houston Mayor Bill White

A group of Texas Progressive Alliance bloggers recently interviewed Houston Mayor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate for Texas Bill White.  The interview was conducted on a conference call. I was on the call.

Like all the bloggers on the call , I was wearing a huge diving suit–

God knows what people are doing while on the phone.

The Texas Progressive Alliance is a confederation of Texas political bloggers from the Democratic and left side of the aisle. Quite often, members of this group find themselves in agreement. (We’ll focus on agreement here.) 

Mayor White, while no doubt serving what he saw as his own purposes, was good to make the time to take the call.

The call was organized by well-regarded Houston blogger Charles Kuffner. Charles takes it well that sooner or later I’ll be passing his daily blog traffic and I respect him for that. Thanks to Charles for setting up the call. 

The call was recorded so, I guess, that we can’t claim the Mayor said something he did not, and, so the Mayor can’t claim we all speak Klingon to each other when gathered in a group.

Below is the transcript of the call in Cuneiform

     

( Thanks to Perry at Brains & Eggs for chiseling out this transcript.) 

I asked the Mayor a question about the impact of cuts at the University of Texas Medical Branch hospital in Galveston.  Mayor White has expressed concern about the lack of beds in our area for the uninsured after these cuts, and has said that our local teaching hospitals need to find enough insured patients to help pay the bills given the demands placed on the system by the uninsured. 

This situation might prompt the Mayor to advocate for Universal Coverage. Below is part of what the Mayor says on his campaign web home about health insurance–

Increase the number of insured Americans — We should expand enrollment in existing programs and develop new plans like three-share programs that allow employers, employees, and public funding to each contribute to the cost of affordable premiums for basic care

I don’t know that increasing the number of Americans with coverage is the same as universal coverage. Given how many Texans lack health insurance, I would call upon the Mayor to give further consideration to his views. 

Regarding UTMB related concerns, Mayor White said he had just testified to the state legislature on the matter. He said, in essence, that no progress had been made on resolving the problems. I do believe the Mayor is sincere when he says he would like to find some solution. I hope he will continue to address this issue. 

(I don’t have the exact quote from the Mayor because I’m not a reporter. I do seek though to be an honest broker and this is pretty much what he said.)

I was glad to have this chance to speak to the Mayor. Normally we only get a chance to talk when I go to his house and yell questions at him from beneath his second-floor window.  He does open the window and respond, but I can’t hear him when his neighbor’s dog barks. 

I look forward to more of these calls with candidates for office in Texas. Next time I promise I’ll turn down the TV in the background. It’s just that the call took place at the same time as a Good Times marathon on Nick At Night.    

March 9, 2009 Posted by | Blogging, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments