Category Archives: Health Care Now1

Is There Fairness Regarding Ambulance Fees?

Will there be a huge debate regarding Houston’s ambulance fees? It’s hard to tell.

I tend to agree with CM Bradford who likens charging an ambulance fee to charging to put out a fire, since the ambulance ride is a part of the Houston Fire Department’s duties. Still, ambulance fees have been around for a while–I still remember getting the bill back in 1990 from my hometown EMS for transporting my ill (and dying) father 10 miles to the next town’s hospital. So, it seems to me the fees will be inevitable.

First, city officials have discovered that dropping a mileage charge that, on average, brought in slightly more than $40 per ride ended up costing the city more than it gained by boosting the base price by nearly $600.

That’s explained by some Medicare math. Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance agree to reimburse the city for both the ride and the mileage on behalf of insured patients. By dropping the mileage fee, the city forfeited that part of the reimbursement – $2.7 million a year. Raising the base price, though, did not raise revenue, because insurers cap what they will pay for an ambulance ride. As a result, the city actually has been collecting less money per ride since it changed the fees.

A decision that looked good in 2010, suddenly looked bad. So, now, they want to return to how it was, but probably with the same increased base fee, right? The debate stands to blame insurers, the indigent, the “ambulance abusers” who are poor to begin with, and everyone else in between.

Now, as far as the indigent are concerned:

Low-income Houston residents are exempted from the costs of an ambulance ride if they fill out a form stating that they cannot afford it and provide proof that they qualify for other forms of government assistance to the poor.

So, can it be balanced out by lowering the base fee and tacking on the mileage fee? I ask this question from a fairness point of view for all those deemed required to pay. At the very least, can we have a discussion about the actual cost of providing ambulance services, how much is expected to be collected from insurance, and determine a fee to pay the difference with a bit of padding, instead of giving the image of making a profit off of sick people? That’s what insurance companies and doctors are for.

The current base price, along with the mileage fee could serve as a deterrent for the poor who may really need an ambulance. And public safety in regards to medical issues should be on the minds of City Council members, much like cops on the streets and fire department response times, when this is being considered.

The bottom line:  When there is a class debate based on medical needs (and an ambulance is as much a medical need as treating a sudden serious illness), then the end-result is not going to make anyone happy. I’d rather they chalk it up as a needed public safety expense, much like cops and fire, and move on to other things.

Planned Parenthood Sues Texas

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for its decision to obliterate access to health services for women. Here’s the release from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast:

Today, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has joined Planned Parenthood affiliates from across the state in filing a federal lawsuit against Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission to stop the enforcement of an unconstitutional rule that threatens access to health care for tens of thousands of low-income women.

The lawsuit argues that it is unconstitutional to block Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women’s Health Program. Over 40 percent of women who received services through the Women’s Health Program chose to rely on a Planned Parenthood health center for Women’s Health Program services, which include lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, contraception, screening for diabetes and high blood pressure, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

As you know, women in Texas have faced their fair share of attacks on health care.  First the legislature slashed $73 million from the state’s family planning program severely limiting access to basic preventive health care for 130,000 Texas women who lack health insurance.

If allowed to stand, the actions taken by Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs, with the support of Governor Perry, will lead to the loss of $35 million in federal funds and a dramatic cutback in health care services available to women in the state.

Planned Parenthood is asking all of us to stand with Texas Women by signing their online petition. Please do so.

Texas State Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso has come out in support of Texas Women.

“…state leaders continue to conflate contraception with abortion and spread myths, while sidestepping the fact that one in four women in Texas have no health insurance at all. Here are the facts: the Women’s Health Program provides contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and other basic health services to uninsured low-income Texas women. It does not provide abortions.

“Nearly half of Women’s Health Program clients receive services through Planned Parenthood, which does not provide abortions at WHP clinics. As the single largest provider of care within the WHP, Planned Parenthood providers have been critical to the program’s success.

“At the end of 2009, El Paso lost one of its primary sources of affordable reproductive health care – Planned Parenthood.  In the year following their closure, roughly 900 women and men lost health care and the rate of chlamydia increased by 24 percent, the rate of gonorrhea increased by 56 percent, and the rate of HIV cases increased by 43 percent.

“Texas women don’t need their state government — whether it’s the Governor or the executive head of a state agency — to dictate where they can get their Pap tests, mammograms or birth control.”

Obviously, stands with Texas Women, too!

Update:  Statement from State Rep. Jessica Farrar, House Dem Leader:

“Rick Perry and his Republican cohorts started this fight when they waged war on women’s health,” said Farrar.

Farrar is unequivocal in her resolve to support Planned Parenthood and Texas women. “Women did not ask for this fight, but we are sure going to finish it, even if that means a court battle,” she said. “Texas women are strong and proud, and we will not sit idly by while a group of extremists attack our health and well being.”

Don’t Mess With Texas Women Tour in Houston-Monday

As the group tells us:

Texas Governor Rick Perry and his conservative allies have once again chosen politics over Texas women. To Governor Perry, women’s health is just a political game.

Governor Perry would rather throw health care for an additional 130,000 women overboard than allow Planned Parenthood to provide health care like breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and STD prevention through public health programs.

Save the date for a special event in Houston to show your support for TEXAS WOMEN!

Take a quick lunch break and join us!

*Lunch Boxes will be provided

And this guy will be there representing my mom and sisters (they’ll be busy)! Hope to see you there!

And while you prep for Monday’s events, make sure you put the Unite Against the War on Women Rally at the State Capitol to be held 4/28/12 on your calendars.

Republican Attack on Women Continues

Looks like the Komen folks have folded to pressure from the right wing to stop funding breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood. Republicans and anti-Woman extremists are to blame for this latest political hit-job on women in America.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has depicted Stearns’ probe as politically motivated and said she was dismayed that it had contributed to Komen’s decision to halt the grants to PPFA affiliates.

“It’s hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women’s lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying,” Richards told The Associated Press. “It’s really hurtful.”

Planned Parenthood has been a perennial target of protests, boycotts and funding cutoffs because of its role as the largest provider of abortions in the United States. Its nearly 800 health centers nationwide provide an array of other services, including birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer screening.

According to Planned Parenthood, its centers performed more than 4 million breast exams over the past five years, including nearly 170,000 as a result of Komen grants.

As a Latino, I’m appalled that the right wing would attack an organization whose purpose is to provide access to health care screenings to those without access; and this especially includes Latinas. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised.

For Latinos, the 2012 elections are about a lot more than just immigration reform. Access to health care, jobs, the economy, education–everything the Republicans are seeking to destroy–are what 2012 is about.

Oct 15: The Houston Walk for Mental Health Awareness

Have you signed up yet? The Houston Walk for Mental Health Awareness is on October 15, so you have plenty of time to sign up, contribute, and support this great cause. Headed up by our good friend C. Patrick McIlvain, we must thank him for all of his work on thisproject. Sign up here:

Here are the flyers you can help distribute:

ACTION ALERT: Support Marjo House


Thanks to Houston Stonewall Young Democrats for this action item. Take Action today!


Marjo House is a 501(c)3 organization that provides transitional housing for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.  Located in the Pleasantville neighborhood of Houston, it has been in operation for 12 years.  Currently, it is in danger of losing its grant funding due to a misunderstanding related to how the facility operates and the erroneous assertion that it violates deed restrictions.  The City Attorney’s office has determined that it does NOT violate deed restrictions and since Marjo House is a 501(c)3 it is NOT a for-profit business.

Tomorrow, Wednesday May 19th, Houston City Council will be voting on whether or not to award Marjo House a $400,000 grant which would allow the facility to continue to operate.

We need YOU, to call the Councilmembers listed below with a simple message, “Vote YES on Marjo House!”


We also need you to send an email.  Below and in bold are the talking points, copy and paste them into an email and show your support for an organization that is providing a vital service to an overlooked community.

The vote takes place at 9am tomorrow morning, so your action tonight is required.  We want the Councilmembers who are undecided on how they should vote to know that there is support for this important housing facility.

Marjo House provides a vital service to an often overlooked community.

Of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, HIV and AIDS have hit African Americans the hardest. The reasons are not directly related to race or ethnicity, but rather to some of the barriers faced by many African Americans. These barriers can include poverty, sexually transmitted diseases, and stigma (negative attitudes, beliefs, and actions directed at people living with HIV/AIDS).

Even though African Americans account for about 13% of the US population, they account for about half (49%) of the people who are infected with HIV and AIDS.

African Americans with AIDS often don’t live as long as people of other races and ethnic groups with AIDS.  For African Americans HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death.

Marjo House operates as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and does not meet the standards to be qualified as a business.

Furthermore, it is the opinion of Houston’s City Attorney that the existence of Marjo House within Pleasantville does not violate the deed restrictions of that community.

Therefore, I urge you to vote in support of continued funding to this asset of the community so that it may continue to serve those who would otherwise be left with less than desirable options.

I urge you to do the right thing.


Brenda Stardig – District A
PHONE: 832.393.3010, Email:

Anne Clutterbuck –
District C
PHONE: 832.393.3004, Email:

Wanda Adams –
District D
PHONE: 832.393.3001, Email:

Mike Sullivan – District E
PHONE: 832.393.3008, Email:

Al Hoang –
District F
PHONE: 832.393.3002, Email:

Oliver Pennington – District G
PHONE: 832.393.3007, Email:

James G. Rodriguez – District I
PHONE: 832.393.3011, Email:

Stephen C. Costello –
At Large Position 1
PHONE: 832.393.3014, Email:

Melissa Noriega – At Large Position 3
PHONE: 832.393.3005, Email:

C.O. “Brad” Bradford – At Large Position 4
PHONE: 832.393.3012, Email:

Some Truth for CD-02 and Ted Poe

Ted Poe voted against Health Care Reform, and this is no surprise considering his right-wing, reactionary views against the poor, immigrants, and anything having to do with equality.  The Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House released this information on how Congressional District 2 will benefit:

In Rep. Poe’s district, the health care reform bill will:
 Improve coverage for 466,000 residents with health insurance.
 Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 157,000 families and 13,300 small businesses to help
them afford coverage.
 Improve Medicare for 90,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
 Extend coverage to 100,000 uninsured residents.
 Guarantee that 18,200 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
 Protect 400 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
 Allow 58,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’ insurance plans.
 Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 4 community health centers.
 Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $91
million annually.

Read More in this PDF document.

The GOP DOES Support Frivolous Lawsuits

Attempting to rain on our parade, Texas AG Abbott has joined a few states to file a lawsuit against America‘s health care reform bill.  Why?

To … defend our state from further infringement by the federal government…

Because, apparently, AG Abbott wants Texas to secede, too?

This is another one of AG Abbott’s lessons in supporting “frivolous lawsuits” when it suits him.

Reaction from Democratic AG Candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky:  “Attorney General Abbott is wasting Texas taxpayer dollars on a legal loser lawsuit for his own political, partisan, and personal gain.  His grandstanding does nothing to protect the people of Texas. His aim is to protect insurance companies.   He is promoting Greg Abbott and fundraising for himself[ii] and his party[iii].

The Rio Grande Guardian Reports:

U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa says an additional 255,000 of his constituents will now get health insurance. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says an additional 202,000 of his constituents will now get health insurance. And, U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz says an additional158,000 of his constituents will now get health insurance

Or as Kanye might say: Greg Abbott hates South Texans!

He Just Had To Be From Texas…

When I first heard, “Baby Killer!”, the first thing that came to my mind was that I hoped it wasn’t someone from Texas.  Oh, well, Capitol Annex provides us some added information on Congressman Noogieburgers.

Is This How Immigration Reform Will Pass?

A fractured Democratic side of the Senate voted 60-39 for cloture and the real health care debate will begin after the holidays.  While the House voted to affect the rights of women with their anti-choice measure, the Senate took the more anti-immigrant approach.

Just as the House Democratic leadership sacrificed the wishes of pro-choice women in a successful gambit to win the votes of anti-abortion Democrats last week, the Senate leadership has included provisions in its health-care proposal that would bar any aid to illegal immigrants and would restrict assistance to immigrants residing legally in the United States.

Is this an indication of what is to come from the Senate during the 2010 immigration reform debate?  Is praying for right-wing Democrats to vote for cloture the pro-migrant side’s best bet?

It seems Harry Reid is more interested in barring immigrants from even paying for insurance to save his own political hide.

But the Senate bill goes further, barring undocumented immigrants from participating in health insurance exchanges – even if they pay full price with their own funds.

Should bigoted commentary from Ted Poe in the House really surprise us?

“Our health-care system is in critical condition as a result of the debt incurred by those living here illegally,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble. “We are at the breaking point now because of this abuse…”

2010 is approaching fast, and Democrats need to tread lightly on immigration-related issues.  If they can bar health care, then what is next? Education?