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The Future of Health Care: Health Policy Workshop Sheds Light on Health-Care Access and Delivery in Central Texas

Posted: Nov. 20, 2012

Donna Howard, Texas House of Representatives

Speaker: Rep. Donna Howard, Texas House of Representatives

The U.S. population is rapidly aging. By 2030, 71 million Americans, or about 20 percent of the population, will be 65 or older. These individuals are at high risk for complex health problems, chronic illness and disability, and constitute the most frequent users of health care. Over the next 30 years, almost every medical specialty will have an increasingly older patient base. As a result, society is facing critical challenges regarding health and social services.

Hewing to its mission to address public health needs in Austin and across Central Texas, the School of Nursing recently held a Health Policy Workshop. Speakers from a broad spectrum of policymakers, thought leaders and educators were on hand to probe for solutions to today’s dilemma of providing more affordable and accessible health care to those in need.

Headlining the event was Rep. Donna Howard, Texas House of Representatives, who discussed the importance of nursing and health-care advocacy in Texas. The crowd was eager to hear from the former UT Austin School of Nursing alumna (BSN ’75) and Austin native about her experiences advocating for health care. She reported that owing to a broad base of support (including members of the business community) several pieces of legislation have been successfully written and passed, but some are still awaiting funding.

Acknowledging that a divided legislature can be challenging when working on legislation, Howard said she is nevertheless confident that she and her colleagues will be able to reach across party lines in the upcoming session to find common ground and improve health-care access for all Texans.

Howard ended by reminding the audiences that nursing is perceived by the public as one of the most trustworthy professions and urging those in attendance to step up their efforts to bring health-care issues to the attention of legislators.

“You are the experts in health care and health-care delivery,” she said. “Be part of the process. Testify at hearings, send emails, phone, visit your representative. We need to hear from you.”

William Sage, vice provost for Health Affairs and the James R. Dougherty Chair for Faculty Excellence in the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, addressed the role of courts in health policy and provided a fascinating breakdown of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Affordable Care Act and what might be in store for health-care delivery over the next several years.

Sage was followed by Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, who continued the discussion on the Affordable Care Act and its impact on public policy. She made clear that Texas has lagged behind in several areas of meeting the health-care needs of its citizens. For example, the dollar limit set by the Texas Legislature in1985 for Medicaid expenditures has never been updated.

Spearheading the workshop were School of Nursing faculty members Gayle Acton, PhD, and Tracie Harrison, PhD.

“The School of Nursing takes seriously its mission to advance the health of the public through developing and disseminating knowledge about health, health care and health-care delivery,” said Acton. “Now more than ever we need to focus on health-care access for all Texans and continue to engage and inform the public through future venues such as the Health Policy Workshop.”