Op-ed: "Texas already Reaping the Benefits of Health Reform"
Out of all 50 states, Texas has the greatest need for health care reform. The 2010 census found that Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the U.S., with one in four Texans uninsured. This means 6.4 million Texans don't have any health insurance. Houston fared even worse. The 29th congressional district, which I represent, has the highest rate of uninsured individuals in the entire nation. The fact that 43 percent of nonelderly adults and 26 percent of children lack health insurance is unconscionable.
Since the Affordable Care Act was signed, active provisions in the law have already started to help us face our health care crisis and have benefited many different constituencies. In the greater Houston area alone, more than 81,000 young adults now have health insurance because of the age limit extension for dependent coverage.
Throughout the Houston area's nine congressional districts, 4,230 small businesses have claimed tax credits to help with their contributions to employee coverage, and 552,000 seniors have received critical preventive screenings and services through Medicare without a co-pay.
Quality is just as important as quantity and our health care community has received millions of dollars in federal grants since 2010 to support and improve the care they provide. The Houston area has seen $39.2 million in grants to support our outstanding hospitals, expand our community health centers, train our doctors and nurses and pursue other public health priorities like disease research.
Almost all of the benefits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will come into effect by 2014, and it's estimated that more than 1 million residents of greater Houston who don't currently have health insurance will have coverage for the first time.
For those in our area who have health insurance, 4.1 million can rest assured that their coverage will not be dropped if they become ill or face lifetime limits on coverage.
As the Supreme Court considers the arguments for and against the health care reform law, it's critical that we take a moment to acknowledge the enormous benefits that this law has provided in only two years.
We will still need to work together to improve it, which Congress does with many bills, but we have made a huge leap toward improving the lives of millions of Americans through access to affordable and quality health care, and bans on unreasonable premium hikes or coverage denial for the people who need it most.
It's our duty as Americans and legislators to make sure that no American has to forgo or be denied life-saving health care in the greatest nation in the world.