HOUSTON – Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott today unveiled his “Healthy Texans” policy plan in Houston, TX. In remarks delivered at St. Joseph’s Women’s Medical Center, Abbott offered specific reforms that will expand access to quality healthcare for Texans.
“Texas has an economic model that has made us number one in the nation for jobs,” Abbott said in his remarks. “But despite our success there are still some who struggle in part because of healthcare challenges. I have a plan for a healthier tomorrow for more Texas families. My ‘Healthy Texans’ plan will expand access, improve care and keep costs from continuing to spiral so even more Texans can access quality healthcare.”
In his proposals, Abbott outlines the need to:
- Increase funding for women’s health programs by $50 million and add optional screening and treatment for postpartum depression through CHIP Perinatal and Medicaid.
- Increase funding to provide more residency positions for medical school graduates so more doctors trained in Texas stay in Texas.
- Compensate doctors for being available to their patients via telephone consultations.
- Extend loan forgiveness to mental health professionals in underserved areas.
- Raise wages for personal care attendants for seniors and people with disabilities.
- Provide no-cost mental health screenings to veterans and service members.
- Request Medicaid funds in the form of a block grant to allow for more efficient and effective use of funds.
To learn more about the plan, visit Townhall254.GregAbbott.com.
“Healthy Texans” Policy Speech:
*Greg Abbott often deviates from prepared remarks. The following has been condensed for purposes of brevity.
I have a plan for a healthier tomorrow for more Texas families. My Healthy Texans plan will expand access, improve care and keep costs from continuing to spiral so even more Texans can access quality health care.
As governor, I will increase funding for women’s health programs by $50 million and I’ll help get more women enrolled in the program by coordinating outreach efforts at the Health and Human Services Commission and Department of State Health services. That’s a 20 percent increase to provide more access for care like family planning, well-woman care and cancer screenings.
My plan also includes increased funding to address the challenge of postpartum depression. As many as one in five women experience symptoms of depression after childbirth. My plan adds optional screening and treatment for postpartum depression through both CHIP Perinatal and Medicaid. This expanded access improves the health and safety of the mother and her family.
Looking more broadly, to achieve better healthcare we must improve access to more doctors and healthcare providers…Doctors who complete their residency in Texas are more likely to remain in Texas to practice medicine. I am calling for an increase in funding to grow the number of residency positions available in Texas for medical school graduates.
We also need to make it easier for patients to see doctors. With advances in technology, we can quickly expand access and bring care closer to the patient especially in underserved rural areas. Telemedicine allows for virtual house calls by phone or videoconference. My plan calls for the safe expansion of telemedicine services with the same high standards of care as an in-person visit and it calls for compensating doctors for being available by phone. Meeting with your doctor by phone or video for basic care or after hours care means more timely checkups and treatments and fewer, more costly emergency room visits.
We must also do more to address mental health needs of Texans. Some 20 percent of Texas adults suffer from a mental illness. And 300,000 Texas children have been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition. We must expand access to mental health services. One way to do that is to attract more professionals in the mental healthcare field. Just as the state offers loan forgiveness to physicians and psychiatrists in underserved areas, I am recommending loan forgiveness be extended to include other mental health providers such as licensed professional counselors, clinical social workers and licensed psychologists.
My Healthy Texans plan calls for a partnership with qualified private providers and hospitals in the areas nearest our major military installations at Fort Bliss, Fort Hood and those in San Antonio. Mental health screenings will be offered to our veterans at no cost.
Improving access to care is also critical for the disabled and our seniors. In-home care is increasingly in demand as patients want to maintain dignity and independence, and families need peace of mind. We must do more to recruit and retain personal care attendants and increase the pay of those employed by the state so more Texans can access this more personalized care.
Perhaps the most effective way to control the spiraling costs of health care is to reform Medicaid…A proven way to improve Medicaid is through block grants to the states. Recent examples in states like Indiana and Rhode Island have shown that block grants lead to greater policy innovation, greater customer satisfaction and savings of taxpayer dollars. As governor, I will request Medicaid block grants so we can provide more and better healthcare to those who need it the most.
A healthier tomorrow for more Texas famimlies is within reach. By spending wisely and investing in innovation, we can expand access to quality healthcare for those who need it most. My plan helps us get there. Thank you.