5 Things Texas: 2021 Economic outlook, Vaccine rollout, Access to care

When we build our agendas for our annual conferences, we wait until as late as possible to get started. Then, we ask our Convening Panel, sponsors and readers this question: What are you spending your mental energy on? We then ask our network to tell us who has the best story to tell about the topics we heard about. This makes our agenda as practical and as actionable as possible.

So, with our 2021 Texas State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference coming up later this week, it’s no surprise that the topics we’re watching this month in Texas health care are also topics teed up on our agenda on Thursday, as you’ll see below.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Over half of Texans show signs of depression

In Texas, 54.2% of 16.5m Texans responding to a recent survey said they felt “down, depressed or hopeless” at least “several days” in the last week. 7.5% of Texans received “counseling or therapy from a mental health professional” in the last seven days. However, another 11.4% said they “Needed counseling or therapy from a mental health professional, but did not get it for any reason.”

So, how is the Texas mental health system coping? Our panel on the topic at the State of Reform Conference this week will feature speakers from Beacon Health Options, the Gulf Coast Center, and Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, who will explore this question with implications for both market actors and policy makers.


2. What’s next for COVID vaccine distribution?

Of the 3.66 million COVID-19 vaccine doses the federal government has distributed to Texas, the state has administered 2.41 million, or 66%. This ranks Texas 21st in the nation in terms of distribution.

On Thursday, we’ll bring together a group of experts to talk through the development of the vaccine and discuss what Texas might expect as distribution continues. Greg Thompson, President and CEO of Amerigroup, and Maria Tort, PhD, Vaccines Medical Director at Pfizer, will join this multi-perspective panel. Tammy Cohen, Pharm D, System Vice President of Pharmacy Services at Baylor Scott and White Health, and Katie Greene, Visiting Policy Associate at Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, will also join the conversation.

3. Proposals to close the health care access gap

From expanding telehealth to making emergency changes from the pandemic permanent, the legislative session is likely to see an active conversation about how Texas can help expand access to care in the state. Meanwhile, the market is moving quickly to find new solutions to close the gap between the community need for care and the system’s capacity to respond.

We’re looking forward to hearing from Rep. Drew Darby and Rep. Donna Howard, along with Jamie Dudensing, CEO of the Texas Association of Health Plans, and Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Employers for Insurance Reform at the conference. This panel will discuss the efforts underway, both in policy and market conversations, to address this gap.


4. The data on Texas’s 2021 economic outlook

Gov. Abbott held multiple listening sessions last week to discuss policy ideas to support the state’s energy industry, small businesses, and workforce. During a meeting in San Antonio, Abbott described Texas as “the economic engine of America,” but a recent poll indicates Texans have less confidence in the state’s economy than they did during the height of the Great Recession.

So, what do the data and analytics tell us about the future of the Texas economy? Has the pandemic set the state back? On Thursday, experts from the Texas Nurses Association, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and Health Management Associates will review the data to gather a sense of where the Texas economy may be heading in 2021.

5. A conversation on the social determinants

The impact of social and community-level determinants on one’s health are now mainstream knowledge, so how are organizations putting that knowledge to work? Our “Keeping our eye on Community Health & Social Determinants” panel will review some of the latest efforts to implement this knowledge and discuss what it means for the Texas system of care.

On this panel we’ll hear from Kay Ghahremani, President and CEO of the Texas Association of Community-Based Health Plans, Andy Miller, Chief Strategy & Impact Officer at the Texas Health Institute, and Brian Sasser, Chief Communications Officer at Episcopal Health Foundation.