Access to affordable and quality healthcare is extremely important for the wellbeing of our community and our economy. That is why I have been an avid supporter of smart health initiatives since I began my career in the state legislature. I serve on the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and will continue to find solutions to the health needs of our country.
For more than 40 years, Medicare has offered critical health and financial stability for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and those with end-stage renal disease. Medicare has provided coverage for at least 45 million individuals this year alone.
The health reform legislation contains substantial payment and delivery system reforms that reward efficient delivery of quality care and change the incentives in today’s health care system to encourage value instead of simply volume. The Affordable Care Act makes investments that will enable beneficiaries to continue to access high-quality, affordable care while encouraging prevention and care coordination for those with chronic conditions. These efforts will help modernize the program and strengthen Medicare’s financial health, protecting both beneficiaries and taxpayers.
It is critical that we preserve Medicare for future generations. I will continue to defend Medicare and I oppose any efforts aimed at decreasing access or undermining the benefits on which seniors routinely rely.
Medicaid is a joint federal/state program that provides health insurance benefits to low-income children, pregnant women, and certain elderly and disabled individuals. Medicaid covers more than 44 million individuals, including 30 million pregnant women, parents under the age of 65, children, and more than 11 million persons with disabilities and elderly persons. Medicaid pays the costs of one third of all births in the United States, half of all nursing home care, and health care for 25 percent of children under the age of five. Approximately 2 million Texas children rely on Medicaid for their health insurance.
Governor Rick Perry has announced he will refuse federal funding to expand the Medicaid program in Texas. This money is free for three years and after three years can either be discontinued or matched with 10% state funds. By refusing this money, Governor Perry is refusing to cover millions of Texans, including vulnerable children. This decision also means that the tax revenue of Texans is going to subsidize Medicaid expansion in New York, California, and other states that have decided to expand Medicaid.
Expanding Medicaid coverage comes at an extremely low cost to the state budget, but provides economic security to those who qualify for coverage. It keeps people healthier and allows them to be productive members of society. I am committed to working with state and federal officials to find a way to reverse this decision.
Federally Qualified Health Centers
Community health centers have proven to be an invaluable resource by helping to fill the void in health care access for low-income and uninsured individuals. Every year they provide thousands of constituents with primary and preventative care that they would otherwise seek at an emergency room.
Over the years our office has helped foster increased growth of community health centers, not only in the Houston area, but also nationally by sponsoring the Health Care Safety Net Act of 2008. This bill became law in 2008 and reauthorized funding for the Community Health Center program, from which all Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) receive funds.
There are several FQHC clinics in our district, including Pasadena Health Center, Denver Harbor Clinic, Airline Children’s Clinic, and El Centro de Corazon clinics. A list of clinics and contact information can be found at https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=8589970150.
It is vitally important that we continue our collaborative work in the community to encourage the development and expansion of community health centers so they can continue to provide high quality and affordable health care to medically underserved communities.
In Houston, heath care is not just something we consume. We also are the home to some of the best healthcare providers in the world. The Texas Medical Center is one of our nation’s premier health centers. In order to maintain this status, federal funding for medical research must be continued. Medical research must be well-funded by the government, because this funding is going to areas that are incredibly beneficial to innovation and healthcare advances, but are not funded through any other means. Federal medical research funding sets the groundwork for private enterprise to innovate.
Unfortunately, recent budget cuts, especially the sequestration, have substantially reduced our commitment to medical research. I look forward to working together to restore this funding to make sure that our nation continues to be a leader in medical innovation. Every year, I join with my colleagues to support funding medical research at $32 billion. However, for many years, medical research has been underfunded. This funding is critical to maintaining American leadership in innovation in this area.
We must do more to reduce the cost of healthcare in our nation. Focusing on prevention is one of the best ways we can curtail future costs. The Affordable Care Act helped accomplish this through the Prevention and Public Health Fund and by ensuring coverage for wellness exams and several types of screenings. Increasing access to quality affordable care helps to prevent conditions and diseases from worsening. This increases quality outcomes and reduces long-term costs to the individual and the system.
Additionally, I support preventive medicine residency training programs for medical students. Preventive medicine residency training programs provide a blueprint on how to train our future physician workforce; physicians trained to zoom in on individual patient care needs and zoom out to the community and population level to identify and treat the social determinants of health. Preventive medicine physicians have the training and expertise to advance the kinds of population health outcomes that public and private payers are increasingly promoting to their providers. These physicians have a strong focus on quality care improvement and are at the forefront of efforts to integrate primary care and public health.
In addition to my legislative efforts, I host an annual Immunization Day at local schools in the 29th District for school-age children to receive the vaccines they need for school free of charge.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a vital agency of the federal government. It ensures that the drugs, medical devices, and food that we encounter are safe and reliable. The agency is mostly funded through a user fee system that reduces its reliance on federal spending.
The FDA approval process can be slow and sometimes difficult to navigate. Regulatory clarity is important to support innovation. But, the primary mission of safety can never be sacrificed. Congress is obligated to provide meaningful oversight, in part through the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve, of the FDA. This means that we are tasked with making sure they have the tools they need to properly accomplish their mission and that they are accountable to the American people.