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Counties push legislature to increase health care funding

Thursday, August 14, 2014 by Mark Richardson

The six major Texas urban counties, including Travis, are pushing for increased funding and access to health care coverage for low-income earners during the interim. County judges from Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Tarrant and Travis sent the state’s Health and Human Services Committee a letter detailing the fiscal burden indigent health care places on county governments throughout the state. Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), whose sprawling 21st District includes parts of Travis and Hays counties, is on the HHS committee. The letter states that the Health Care Treatment Act of 1985 mandates all counties lacking a public hospital or hospital district must provide health care for impoverished residents. This costs up to 8 percent of a county’s general tax levy, and urban counties with high populations must continue to provide health care even if the cost exceeds 8 percent of the tax levy, the letter states. Travis County spent $270 million in the 2011 Fiscal Year on indigent health care. Overall, private and public providers throughout the state spend $4 billion a year on uncompensated care. In 2012, the Kaiser Foundation reported that Texas was last in the nation, with 24 percent of its residents without health insurance.

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