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On Monday, the last day of the 84th Legislative Session people gathered at Ferris Plaza to hold a "Vigil" for the 25 Texans who die each day (9,000/year) solely because they had no health insurance and to seek a special session to expand medicaid and institute a state market place. 

          Opening the Vigil, the Common Cause Choir sang “We Shall Not be Moved”

1.5 million Texans have no health insurance because of the “failed leadership” in Austin, said Brianna Brown, co-director of Texas Organizing Project which held the vigil supported by a number of organizations.   Legislators again decline to expand Medicaid which would provide those who fall into the coverage gap coverage.  Another  1.5 million may also lose their health care if the U.S. Supreme Court decides that people in states which do not have their own Market Place are not eligible for subsidies, she noted.  King v. Birdwell, 135 S. Ct. 475.

Additionally, according to http://www.myhighplains.com, “The federal government is officially holding state leaders’ feet to the fire, hoping to get Texas to expand its Medicaid program to provide health insurance to more low-income Texans.

“Federal officials called the state's health agency this week to say that Texas' reluctance to expand Medicaid — a key tenet of President Obama's signature health law — will play into whether his administration extends a waiver that helps the state's hospitals cover uninsured patients.”

"Together we can create a healthy state by ensuring that all Texans - not matter how much money you have in your pocket can go to the doctor.  We are askign that Gover Abbott cll a special session texpand medicaid and set up our own state exchange," Said Ms. Brown.

Deshawn Burton, who falls into that coverage gap, noted, “Every member of the Texas state legislature had health insurance.  Gov. Abbott has health insurance.  We pay for their health insurance.  They are turning their noses up at billions of dollars that could save my life.”   

Expanding Medicaid “could save the lives of people like me who are cashiers, cooks, nursing assistants – everyday, hardworking folks.” 

 

 

Should the Supreme Court rule the folks in states without their own Exchange, Lemlem Berhe, a pharmacist by trade, could lose her insurance.  Ms. Berhe obtained her insurance through the Federal Exchange, but a kink in the wording might eliminate the subsidy she receives and, therefore, her ability to pay for any insurance. 

“If the Supreme Court rules that people like me are ineligible for federal subsidies,” she said, “keep calm and pay your premiums” as there will be time before changes take effect.

 

Dr. Tom Ripp, an otolaryngologist, noted that many patients come to his office when their afflictions are “little” and can be treated effectively.  If cancer is discovered, these people can get proper treatment and have a sure or survival rate of 98%.  But the low income or uninsured patient usually does not come in early enough.  Their earnings are spread thin – rent payments, utilities, transportation, food, child care. The delay in proper treatment can reduce that cure or survival rate to as low as 50%, he said.

These people have staggering health care bills which they will never be able to pay and the debt filters down to hospitals and taxpayers resulting in higher costs all around including increased insurance premiums, Dr. Ripp reported.

According to the Center for American Progress, "The decision not to expand medicaid has xcost Texas $8.6 billion in economic growth and approximately 70,500 new jobs across the state. . . . Texas hospitals are mssing out on $34.3 billion in reimbursements because state lawmakers refused to expand Medicaid."

“The Texas state legislature could alleviate this recurring paralysis of healthcare for the low income, uninsured by voting for the acceptance of federal funds for the expansion of Medicaid.  Not only would that provide healthcare insurance to over 1,000,000 Texans, the state would receive $110 Billion a year,” he noted. It would also create over 300,000 jobs; Dallas County alone would receive over $450 million in year one and create more than 47,000 jobs; Dr. Ripp noted.

“Denying access to healthcare to millions of Texans is a moral issue,” observed Pastor Barbara Latoison, pastor of St. Mark AME.  She said she saw two reasons that Medicaid had not been expanded: 1. There is more concerned about personal profit and 2. Elected officials are more concerned about their political agenda than they are about people while rural hospitals are closing and Dallas hospitals are laying people off.

The idea that the uninsured are lazy blacks and illegals is wrong. She noted that 40% of those who cannot afford health care are poor whites; 24% are Hispanic; 26% are African American; and 54% of the uninsured work.

Legislators who profess to be Christian seem to be without the principles of their faith, she pointed out.  As a matter of principle, Christians care for “the least, the last, and the lost,” she said.  

When the speakers finished, participants took out their phones and called  Gov. Abbott at 512-463-1782 to ask for the special legislative session to expand Medicaid and institute a State Market Place and marched aroung the plaza changing for health care now..

In addition to TOP members, other participants represented Planned Parenthood, NAACP, Our Walmart, the Common Ground Choir, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff’s Social Justice Ministry, and the North Texas Unitarian Universalist Congregations, and unions. 

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