Affordable Care Act

Walking The Streets Of Houston To Speak With The Uninsured

Governor Rick Perry has made it clear that he doesn't want Texas to join other states in expanding Medicaid, the taxpayer-funded health plan for the poor. But he's being pressured by some county judges, hospitals, and public health advocates to change his mind. On Thursday, activists took the fight to the streets of Houston, fanning out through the East End to find uninsured workers.

“What do we want?”

“Health care!”

“When do we want it?”


The volunteers started with a rally near a Metro bus stop on Harrisburg.

Durrel Douglas of the Texas Organizing Project reminded the group that there are 1.5 million Texans who would qualify for Medicaid if the Legislature agreed to expand it.

We’re going to go from home to home, from store to store, from washateria to washateria, parking lot to parking lot, because we know that we are among the 1.5 million people, and that many of them don’t know that they would qualify.”

By some estimates, Texas would have ante up $15 billion to expand Medicaid over the next decade – but in return the federal government would give Texas six times that amount, about $100 billion, to insure all those new people.

Douglas says most low-income Texans are working too hard to follow the debates, but the impact on their lives would be huge.

“Many of these people don’t know that Medicaid expansion would actually benefit them and bring health care options to their family. So we’re going to find them, we’re going to let know them know, and when this thing passes in the great state of Texas, we’re going to be the ones to let them know.”

Katrina Rhodes marched into a Whataburger and talked to a few workers behind the counter.

“Hi! We’re trying to find the 1.5 million people that works and don’t have healthcare coverage …”

Some workers shrugged and turned away, but Shaquna Washington grabbed a pen and signed on to the campaign.

“It’s ridiculous. Like, I have a sore throat or my teeth are hurting too, I want to be able to be seen by a doctor too.”

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, with about 23 percent of the population going without coverage.

Washington says she works 32 to 40 hours a week, and that her job does offer a health plan, but she can’t afford the premiums. She says she would have to choose between paying the premiums and making her rent.

“It’s like one or the other and it’s just like (sigh). I don’t want to have to sacrifice for my health but it’s just like, I have to somewhere to live too.”

Expanding Medicaid to more working adults was originally part of Obamacare, but after the Supreme Court decision, it became an optional part of the law for each state.

Republican governors in seven states, including Florida and Ohio, have agreed to expand Medicaid.

But Perry has said repeatedly that Medicaid is broken and inefficient so he doesn’t want to expand it in Texas.

A recent national survey shows that most Americans are still unsure how Obamacare will affect them, and most don’t know what their own state leaders have decided on the Medicaid issue.

That’s why the Texas Organizing Project will spend the next month doing outreach not just on the streets of Houston, but also in Dallas, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley.

From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.


Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health and Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is the health and science reporter. Her reporting frequently appears on national NPR shows like Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Before coming to Houston Public Media, Feibel spent ten years as an award-winning newspaper reporter. She has worked at the Houston Chronicle, the Associated Press, and two...

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