The Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) released the results of its latest statewide poll on Tuesday, which showed that most Texans (63%) support increased state spending on healthcare programs.
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Healthcare trailed only public education (74%) as the top priority for increased spending and marked the highest percentage in support of increased healthcare spending in five years.
“Year after year, Texans tell us that they’re missing out on preventive check-ups, cancer screenings, and getting help to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure — all because of cost,” says Dr. Ann Barnes, EHF’s president and CEO. “Lack of access to affordable care has direct and indirect impact on health outcomes and these numbers show Texans are looking to state leaders for help.”
Respondents specified cost reduction (67%), reducing maternal mortality (60%), increased funding for mental health (53%), and access to family planning services/contraception (49%) as their top four healthcare priorities.
Nearly three-quarters of Texans (72%—a 3% increase from the previous year) said they support Medicaid expansion while more than two-thirds (65%) said the state government is not doing enough to ensure low-income adults get the healthcare they need.
Democrats have filed proposals to address all four of those priorities this session, including a range of bills that pursue Medicaid expansion through either a state plan amendment, 1115 Medicaid waiver amendments, or putting the issue before Texas voters, which requires a two-thirds majority legislative approval.
While Republican opposition blocked the passage of such measures in past sessions, the state’s record budget surplus of $32.7 billion and the proposed increased appropriation of $41 billion for health and human services this session raise questions about how those funds will be spent.
Rep. Julie Johnson (D – Dallas) is reintroducing House Bill 652, her proposal to establish the “Live Well Texas” program, a state-customized approach that incentivizes working adults to manage their healthcare responsibility. Sen. Nathan Johnson (D – Dallas) has reintroduced a similar measure in the Senate.
Speaking to State of Reform ahead of the current session last December, Rep. Johnson shared her optimism about making progress on healthcare this time around.
“I think it’s the most significant piece of healthcare legislation filed that has the ability to do the most transformative work in our healthcare system in Texas,” Johnson said. “It would be nice if our Republican leadership felt the same way about it. But nonetheless, I do think it’s very important that the public have an opportunity to weigh in on important policy matters. And so we’re absolutely going to do that.”