5 Things Texas: Steve Love, Mask order, Mental health & COVID-19

I hope you were able to have a safe, outdoor and family-centered 4th of July holiday! My neighborhood, typically filled with kids playing and retirees walking dogs, became a veritable war zone on the 4th. It was loud, bright, dangerous, and totally uncalled for. Much of the fault may or may not have been mine (sorry, neighbors…).

Thankfully, no buildings died as a result of our fun. And, while we practiced social distancing and wore masks with our neighbors, we will all have to wait an average of 6 days to see if any symptoms arise. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Every day brings a new risk in this time of COVID, I’m sorry to say.





With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Q&A: Steve Love on hospital capacity in North Texas

Steve Love is the President and CEO at Dallas-Forth Hospital Council. Love wrote in an op-ed last week that Texas’ spike in COVID-19 cases would not eclipse the capability of North Texas hospitals to meet demand. Following the publication of that op-ed, reporter Michael Goldberg reached out to Love to ask about what data points he’s seeing that indicate preparedness for increased hospitalizations.

As of late last week, Love said DFWHC affiliated hospitals were running at roughly 70-71% ICU capacity and about 36% of ventilators were in use. If infection was widespread on July 4th weekend, Love said Texas hospitals could see a large spike in patients between July 18-20 that could even result in a surge situation. During the interview, Love also discussed Oklahoma voting to expand Medicaid and the DSRIP program.

2. Challenges to the mask order

Gov. Abbott moved to impose a mask mandate on Thursday, drawing at least one immediate court challenge from GOP voices. A number of law enforcement officials also said they would not enforce the move, like Denton County’s Sheriff who misguidedly reasoned the mandate is an “executive order not a law.”

Rep. Tony Tinderholt said “Republican legislators can’t even get a meeting or call” with Abbott to discuss masks. A resolution is headed to the Texas Republican State Convention calling for a censure of Abbott for “creating law via executive order in violation of… (the) Texas Constitution.” In an interview last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said “locking down doesn’t work…the worst thing we could do is to lock down Texas again,” and that the “media is misreporting information.” Patrick’s message muddies the political communication waters for Gov. Abbott, though Patrick’s own “Texans Back to Work Task Force” called for businesses to “Require use of masks by all persons while in the workplace if practical.”

3. Virtual: Mental health in a time of COVID

On July 15th, we’ll host Deputy Executive Commissioner at HHSC Sonja Gaines along with Bonnie Cook, the Executive Director of Mental Health America of Greater Dallas, for the latest in our 5 Slides We’re Discussing series. We will have registration up at our site tomorrow.

These Virtual Conversations are similar to the sessions you’d see at an in-person State of Reform event: diverse perspectives, thoughtful discussion, and th most pressing issues of the day. If you missed it, on June 19th, we hosted a virtual session on Black leadership in US health care and health policy. Rep. Garnet Coleman joined that event, saying the first step Texas can take to address health disparities is to reinstate the disparities task force, which had its funding slashed by the state in 2017. This, he says, will make clear the necessary data and statistics to evaluate outcomes and disparities. I encourage you to check out the video and highlights from the conversation, which are linked above.

4. Video: Karim Kaissi

Aspire at Anthem, Inc. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss strategies to bridging silos in health care, and better coordinate care for patients.

“The alignment of incentives is not there. The way we get paid in health care varies by party or provider. The fee-for-service world most of us live in promotes that as well. Within CareMore, we look for arrangements with the purchasers of health care, or even the consumers. to align those incentives.”

5. Convening Panel for North Texas virtual conference to meet

As you know, a hallmark of what we do at State of Reform is to convene senior health care executives and health policy leaders in non-partisan, policy agnostic forums to talk through the most pressing challenges in heath care. We do this twice a year: once in the late summer and once in the early days of the legislative session. While these gatherings have transitioned to the virtual space in the COVID era, our Convening Panel is getting together next week to begin drafting the agenda for our 2020 North Texas State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference.

If you have ideas for content, now is a good time to share those, I’ll incorporate the feedback into the discussion guide that we share with our Convening Panel to support their conversation. What topics should we tee up? Who should we curate to speak? In our crowd-sourced model for content development, your input is really helpful to us. So, let us know.