June 28, 2012
The Supreme Court today refused to turn back the clock or reignite the sort of healthcare crisis that so many Americans have worked for so long to end. Today’s decision, over the long run, will benefit people in Travis County, in Texas and across the country who don’t currently have access to reliable, affordable health care.
Now more than ever, states, regions and local governments need to confront this new healthcare landscape and figure out solutions that will actually accomplish the goal of keeping people healthy and helping them be healthier.
Although not part of what’s become known as Obamacare, one vital piece of healthcare reform is what’s known as the 1115 Medicaid Transformation Waiver. The Waiver allows state and local governments to leverage local resources and draw down additional federal money to provide innovative, community-based health care. It could – and should – fund healthcare efforts that will help millions of Texans.
For example, Central Health (the county healthcare district) is working on a plan to use the Waiver to gain federal money that will create a system of community-based care, extending treatments and therapies deep into Travis County’s neighborhoods. This will keep folks out of emergency rooms, keep Austin healthy and ultimately save taxpayers money.
We must take advantage of this resource, and our time to do so is running out: the deadline for applying for the Waiver money is September 1.
If Central Health gains this funding, then the region’s biggest single challenge will be our shortage of doctors. It’s estimated that by 2016, our community will need several hundred more doctors than it will have, and that gap will only grow as the population grows older and more and more doctors retire.
Furthermore, if the legislature expands Medicaid in Texas to comply with the law and this decision, then thousands of Central Texans will have new access to health coverage, and the region will need doctors to treat those people before minor health ailments become catastrophic ones.
That’s why a medical school is so critical for Austin’s future: To attract and train more physicians, we need a reliable stream of medical students, residents and doctors that a medical school would provide.
These additional providers would staff neighborhood clinics, treat people in the county’s planned teaching hospital, and help provide specialty care that our community so badly lacks. They’ll help save Central Texans from having to travel to Houston, Dallas and other faraway cities for treatments that aren’t currently available here. And they’ll ensure that the many innovative healthcare programs being developed here will actually reach their full potential.
Austin and Travis County have long needed a medical school. With today’s decision, we need one more than ever.