5 Things Texas: Amazon and health care | Jose Camacho | Hurricane Harvey

Southeastern Texas has been in our thoughts and prayers these past few weeks. The New York Times has a good list of places to donate to relief efforts if you’re able to do so. If you need some good news, check out some of the stories of heroism from first responders, reporters, and neighbors.

Now, here’s 5 Things We’re Watching in Texas healthcare for September.

DJ 5 Things Signature


1.  Hurricane Harvey’s lasting impact

About two dozen hospitals in southeastern Texas were closed or evacuated patients during Harvey. The South East Texas Regional Advisory Council estimates it could be a month before hospitals are back to full capacity, impacting revenue as hospitals see fewer admissions and outpatient procedures. Moody’s Investors Service named Harris Health System as the most vulnerable health care provider because of impacted property values and “serious disruptions to future patient volumes.”

Contaminated floodwaters pose a potential public health risk of cholera, typhoid and mosquito-borne illnesses, though the extent is unknown. A recent Texas Tribune event reported that the Houston area has more Superfund clean up sites than anyplace else in America.   And while Houston’s drinking water remained intact, the city of Beaumont was without running water for roughly five days. A flooded Arkema chemical plant in Crosby had three trailers of stored chemicals explode, triggering a 1.5 mile evacuation zone over concerns of hazardous materials.


2.  When Amazon enters health care

The news that Amazon will be looking for a second HQ spurred me to thinking last week about what it would look like if Amazon entered health care. It would likely come with an announcement as quick and straightforward as the HQ2 announcement, and with just as many implications for it’s next home. (Here are five reasons I think it’s Austin.)

I lay out an 8-step strategy for Amazon that I think – while certainly a big deal – is probably not nearly as hard for the corporate giant as entering the brick-and-mortar grocery space.  Which, as you know, they’ve done.

Amazon is already a health care giant, based on the care it purchases for its employees.  I recognize it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Nevertheless, that’s about 425,000 employees for which it already purchases care – soon to be 500,000.


3.  US Senate HELP Committee, CHIP and federal policy

Bi-partisan hearings on health reform are being held this month in the US Senate. The Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pension) Committee convened both governors and state insurance commissioners last week to talk through prospective changes that both parties can get behind. This week, they hear from stakeholders and discuss state flexibility. Notably, of the 20 individuals providing testimony, none were from Texas.

The HELP Committee’s goal is to get a bill out of committee by the end of this month. The bill likely will include funding the cost sharing payments to plans, and will codify flexibility for state waivers. A number of House Republicans are in alignment, including the Freedom Caucus, though they’ve also wanted to address high priced pharmaceuticals.

Importantly, CHIP re-authorization ends Sept. 30th. It’s a program with bi-partisan support, but a 23% bump in the matching rate that came from the ACA may become a political football. If the re-authorization passes as part of a larger Continuing Resolution to fund the budget, it might be part of a host of riders that could make the total spending number too big for some conservatives to support.


4.  Video: Jose Camacho, TACHC

I wanted to elevate comments from Jose Camacho, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers. In this edition of “What They’re Watching,” Camacho argues about the importance of taking time to understand the details during healthcare reform: “If we’re still at the point where it matters a lot more to cut the budget than it matters to improve health…that’s a political decision, not a policy one.”

I mention that in part because of this story.  A community health clinic from California sought out Jose at a recent conference in San Diego to ask if they could help in anyway as a result of Hurricane Harvey.  The result was two mobile care units operated by Bakersfield-based nonprofit Clinica Sierra Vista.  They “contain examination rooms, dental chairs, bathrooms, and all the instruments and supplies necessary to respond to catastrophe.”



5.  Read: “Worst mental health crisis in decades”

This recent story in The Atlantic has been generating buzz among social scientists, policy makers, and parents – or at least any parent that has had to deal with the issue of phones in their kid’s hands. It’s a read worthy of your time for a glimpse into the future of the American demography and economy.

The iPhone was released in 2007, making what’s known as the iGen (kids born between 1995 and 2012) the first generation to live entirely in a world of smartphones. The result: “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

“Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. In 2011, for the first time in 24 years, the teen suicide rate was higher than the teen homicide rate.”