Legislative Update: Health care bill, maternal mortality, bathrooms

By Kevin Nix, Sr. Director of Communications

Legacy’s mission is providing healthy change in diverse communities across Southeast Texas – both inside and outside the exam room. As part of that outside strategy, we care about legislative issues that impact the patients and broader communities we serve. Here are three policy areas we’ll be monitoring and engaging in over the coming weeks.

Health Care Bill 

Late last week, the U.S. Senate introduced its new version of the health care bill that repeals and replaces the Affordable Care Act. The bill retains the deep cuts to Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income people, including pregnant women, children, the elderly and disabled. These are many of the patients we serve across our 29 clinics in Southeast Texas.  This bill doesn’t help them.

It is true that a key change to the bill is preserving the ACA’s taxes on the wealthy, but as the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation observed,  “The revised Senate bill reinstates taxes on wealthy people, but it mostly does not spend that money on health care for low-income people.”

A vote on the bill in the Senate has been postponed until after Sen. John McCain recovers from surgery.

Maternal Mortality 

The special session of the Texas legislature officially open tomorrow. One issue is of particular concern to our OB/GYN practice: maternal mortality. In recent years, Texas has seen a massive spike in the deaths of women during or after pregnancy, making the state’s maternal mortality rate the highest in the nation. Leading causes for these deaths are diabetes, obesity, hypertension, drug overdoses and mental health conditions. Reps. Shawn Thierry and Armando Walle, both from Houston, have introduced bills to study what is happening with these women so we all can help curb the problem.

Bathroom Bill 

Another of our priorities is the so-called “bathroom bill.” We will again be conveying the same public health message to lawmakers that Dr. Jennifer Feldmann, a Legacy pediatrician, offered in her testimony before the Legislature earlier this year:

It is my teenage transgender patients who are at the highest risk for suicide.

Four in 10 transgender youth– let me say that again:  four in 10 – attempt taking their own life.  If they’re living in hostile environments, their risk of suicide is eight times that of a typical teenager.

On patient, whom I will call Josh, drives more than 4 hours to see me. Josh, age 12, came into my care after an ER visit for an unsuccessful suicide attempt. After that incident, he disclosed to his mom that he is transgender.

His family acutely realized that they could have a dead child, or a living transgender son. While they had never heard of transgender, they loved their child and embraced him.  Now, Josh is a much happier person.

We know from medical research and countless real-life stories like Josh’s that death by deep depression and discrimination are avoidable. The antidote is acceptance – or at least not blatant discrimination. Letting them just live their lives is a good outcome.

Please follow @LegacyActions for ongoing updates on these issues and more over the coming weeks.