At the 2022 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Austin last week, panelists in the “Bringing an equity lens to health care” session highlighted the importance of understandable and accessible data in creating solutions to health disparities, and discussed how to depoliticize health equity conversations in Texas.
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Ankit Sanghavi, executive director of the Texas Health Institute, contradicted an often misconceived notion that initiatives to advance health equity only benefit a few populations.
“With a movement on health equity, we’re actually creating larger opportunities for all population groups,” he said. “When it comes to looking at the larger health outcomes or profiles, when we look at even white Texans, which is conceived to be the best performing racial group in our state, we actually are faring very poorly as a state, when we look at their counterparts across the country. So when we are bringing in equity, we are also bridging that gap, not just for the minority populations in our state, but for the white population in our state.”
When discussing recent initiatives the state had taken in advancing health equity, the group of panelists expressed particular enthusiasm for a key health equity bill that passed in the previous legislative session: House Bill 2090.
The bill establishes an all-payer claims database that will collect health care claims from public and private health insurance plans with the goal of improving price transparency and supporting a more competitive marketplace database. The all-payer claims database will be administered by the UTHealth School of Public Health, and will be made publicly available by the end of 2023.
Rep. Lina Ortega (D – El Paso) said this bill will be greatly beneficial for providers, patients, and payers in the state, as it establishes a more transparent cost comparison process.
“Currently, patients can pay significantly different amounts [for health coverage] depending on the provider and the location,” she said. “And as we all know, the cost of health care is one of the biggest barriers to obtaining and receiving health care services.”
She said the database will also benefit policymakers, as it would provide them with information regarding the highest quality services and the lowest cost health care options.
Carol Robinson, founder and CEO of CedarBridge Group and Midato Health, echoed Ortega’s comments, stating how showing policymakers and program executives high-quality data can influence them to make decisions that positively impact efforts to advance health equity.
“You can’t get to a future state if you don’t understand your current state … If you can have good data that will show you places or even good transformational programs that have the optimistic potential to show cost savings, then a lot of times even the most conservative Republican legislators will understand that that will have a value,” she said.
Ortega went on to condemn the tendency for health equity to be associated with political parties in the state, emphasizing how health equity positively impacts all populations.
“The more people that don’t get access to health care and have issues where they’re constantly going to hospitals and don’t have health insurance, it’s [taxpayers across the state] that end up paying,” she said. “I think it’s [about] educating people and making them recognize that [health equity] should not be based on political parties.”
Kelenne Blake-Fallon, executive director of Black Mamas Austin Texas, also emphasized the importance of understandable and practical data in depoliticizing conversations regarding health equity in Texas.
“Health is not partisan, health is human,” she said. “Needs are human, so [we need to focus on] really rehumanizing the discussion away from politics.”
She added that understanding the context of health equity data is equally as important in finding solutions, as well as including the voices of minority communities who have been impacted by health disparities the most, was equally as important in finding solutions.
“A very helpful and useful way to start to problem solve for [these health equity issues] is literally figuring out the historical timeline that has led to that disparity, and figuring out every point in time where it has impacted where we are today,” she said.