Monday, March 2, 2015


Recently the AARP, probably the largest advocacy group for senior citizens, declared Texas as having the worst nursing homes in the United States.  There are several reasons, most of which are strictly political.  The stubborn refusal of our leadership to accept the several billions of dollars offered by the federal government to provide adequate health care for our citizens is probably the biggest reason.  

In all probability, the second biggest reason our elderly in Texas are mistreated is simply that politicians are not taking the time to go take a firsthand look at how the elderly in Texas exist.  I confess I, too, have probably turned a blind eye too long to the plight of seniors in Texas.  Having a mother who recently turned 100 and dealing with her everyday problems has made me acutely aware of the sorry state of life for elderly Texans.  

If you have not visited a nursing home recently, you should.  If you or your parents live long enough, in all probability, one of you will end up in such an institution.  Most Americans--and particularly Texans--seldom have the resources to pay for first-class care and must rely on Medicaid to provide themselves with food, shelter and care in their declining years.  While some nursing home operators manage to eke out a profit, in most cases the nursing homes which rely on public assistance remain on the edge of bankruptcy. 

I doubt seriously if a majority of members of the State Legislature realize, for example, that our state does not even recognize Alzheimer’s as a disease.  Alzheimer patients do not generate any greater assistance when housed in a nursing home than someone who has simply grown old.  Unfortunately, Alzheimer patients require almost constant care which, in turn, requires a greater level of funding than for ordinary elderly patients.

At the other end of the life continuum, Texas children born into poverty suffer fates similar to our elderly.  A child advocacy group called Children At Risk recently reported that 1/4 of the children in Houston live in poverty.  Other studies have shown many poor children in Texas (in the thousands) go to bed hungry every night.  Again, the steadfast refusal of our Governor, Lt. Governor and legislative leadership to accept the benefits available under the Affordable Care Act forces Texas to remain the state with the most uninsured population.  

So-called tort reform protecting doctors, hospitals, clinics and any other medical provider with immunity from suit--no matter how egregious their misconduct--has also not produced the results promised.  Medical expenses are higher than when tort reform was passed, and the supply of doctors per thousand citizens in Texas has not improved greatly.  While our ex-governor was running for president and boasted about economic victories in Texas, he ignored the fact that health care for children in Texas ranks no better than fifth from the bottom.

I would like to believe all Texans have a conscience.  It is a fact that poor health care for children will lead to greater public expenditures in the long run.  If for no other reason than humanitarian empathy for children who are less fortunate, the facts about poor health care for children should drive us into a continuous  dialogue with our Legislature to do what is necessary to see that our children and grandparents do not suffer. 

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