A step backward in health

Hypocrisy continues to prevail in Texas, particularly in the area of health. Governor Perry and others continue to promote the idea of everybody being responsible by their own health care by way of insurance. Republicans also go bonkers by attacking every organization that has ever favored allowing legal abortions – protecting the unborn, they call it. Unfortunately, at the same time, the already born do not fare so well. A recent study has demonstrated that Texas leads the nation in children’s deaths due to abuse. This at the same time the Texas Legislature continues to underfund Children’s Protective Services. Our governor and our legislators ignore the fact that Texas also leads the nation in underinsured or uninsured children.

Poor folks in Texas seeking help with their health are in for another body blow. Not only poor folks, but middle-class Texans are about to suffer a major inconvenience. If the legislative mandate stays in place, Texans, particularly elderly Texans, can forget the friendly service of their corner drug store, as well as home delivery of pharmaceuticals.Texas, through our governor, has decreed that Medicaid payments, including for pharmaceuticals, will be managed by private benefit managers. Unfortunately, several of these also own their own chains of retail pharmacies such as CVS. These so-called managers are now offering contracts that would only reimburse at independent pharmacist rates per prescription, which cause the corner drugstore to lose anywhere from $5 to $11 per prescription. These so-called managers are attempting to do away with the independent pharmacy and force Texans to either deal with Walgreens, CVS or mail-order pharmacies. The local corner drug store is not only a major convenience to many Texans, but it is a good thing for our health. The local pharmacist generally knows his or her customers, knows their needs, and in addition to filling prescriptions, can give decent advice related to medications. In most cases the corner pharmacist does not require you to stand in line and treats you more like a real human than simply a number waiting to be served.

Policies being adopted by our state at this time will have another devastating effect on Texas. It will send about 36,000 jobs out of state. A recent study commissioned by independent pharmacy groups predicted 1,300 stores in Texas will be out of business in the next few months. While Texas politicians will tell the public they are looking out for us, it gives me little comfort to know the state law requires only that I have access to a participating drug store within 15 miles of my home and a 24-hour pharmacy within 70 miles of my home.

If the way the state of Texas has chosen to deal with Medicaid pharmaceuticals is any indication of future policies, Texans would be ill-served to follow Gov. Perry’s recommendation that we do away with Medicare and simply have the federal government send block grants to the states and let the states devise a plan for health. Such a scenario is almost sure to short Texans even further on health care, even though we now rank near the bottom of all of the states.

It seems like the same ol’ rich folks, well connected with the governor’s office, are gonna get richer, and the rest of us will have to shift for ourselves, being at best inconvenienced, and at worst, deprived of adequate health resources.

Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas.