Federal dollars will keep paying for emergency health care for uninsured Texans


AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a last minute deal, your federal tax dollars will continue to help 4.5 million Texans without health insurance get emergency care at hospitals.

The federal government has agreed to send $25 billion to Texas hospitals over the next five years.

Gov. Greg Abbott made the announcement Thursday.

“I committed to the people of Texas that we would focus on preserving access to care without expanding a broken Medicaid system under Obamacare,” said Gov. Abbott, thanking “the federal government for a willingness to work together to ensure all Texans are able to access care.”

With insurance or without, hospitals are required to treat you in the emergency room. Joe and Jane Taxpayer foot the bill so hospitals don’t have to eat the cost.

“It is a big deal because again, part of our quality of life is that everyone has access to health care,” said John Hawkins from the Texas Hospital Association. He tells KXAN what’s known as the “1115 waiver” would have run out Dec. 31. Without the announced extension, rural hospitals could’ve closed and urban hospitals would’ve limited their community clinics and baby delivery services.

Now, that won’t happen. “It at least provides us some stability and provides the rules of the road going forward,” said Hawkins.

The administration under President Obama somewhat held this money back, to try and encourage state leaders to expand their own health care for poor Texans. But that changed when President Trump entered the White House.

“It is tremendously good news that we are not going to fall off a funding cliff on Jan. 1,” said Anne Dunkelberg from the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

However, Dunkelberg also says that money for hundreds of specialized Texas programs will go away in two years as part of the deal.

The Center for Health Care Services CenterCare, which tries to coordinate physical health and mental health and substance abuse treatment in health care, and the Bluebonnet Trails Community Services HealthCareLink, which works to reduce people using emergency rooms when they don’t have to, are part of those special programs in Central Texas.

Dunkelberg said, “The good news is that, that money is going to be here for two more years just the way it is today, but after that it’s going to have to phase out.”

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