In a meeting with constituents and the Harris County Medicare for All coalition, Congressmember Sylvia Garcia (TX-29) said she disagreed with abolishing private insurance.
And as it stands doesn’t support H.R. 1976, the congressional Medicare for All bill which grants universal coverage for all Americans no matter their socioeconomic status.
According to records, Medicare for All as an alternative to the for-profit healthcare system is a common progressive ideal that dates back historically to the early 1900s.
Equally important, Garcia is also a part of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of legislative members whose job is to advocate for progressive policy ideas like immigration reform, climate justice, raising the minimum wage, debt-free college, and more.
It seems moderate Democrats in Washington D.C. have settled with establishing the Affordable Care Act and are focused on expanding Medicaid coverage — a foreign idea to Texas Republican legislators who have made it their job to not fully expand Medicaid in the state, leaving over a million Texans uninsured.
So progressive Democrats in the chamber have the opportunity to go even further for widespread change.
The Signal spoke with Harris County Medicare for All Coalition members Stephanie Villanueva and Mellissa Martinez on the meeting with Garcia, the impacts of her disapproval, and what’s next.
Both Villanueva and Martinez said Garcia’s office reached out to them initially only to be told no after requesting her support of the bill.
“To say no after listening to constituents literally display their life and vulnerability when it comes to tackling the healthcare system,” Martinez said. “Not only our time, but our people and community members are baring themselves because this is a crisis. We’re in Harris County, a large county, and there are so many people who are uninsured, and that have a story to tell.”
Over 16 constituents and community members joined the call to highlight the need for universal healthcare in the area. And emphasized some key demographics in the district.
According to statistics, the Latino and Latinx communities represent 79 percent of the 29th district population, and the median income for a family in the district is $48,300. And 32 percent of the population in the district are uninsured.
Although health insurance varies by private or public coverage, after 19-years-old the number of insured residents equals uninsured residents in the district.
For context, the 29th district in Houston covers Galena Park, Pasadena, and parts of Aldine.
“She champions herself as the first Latina to represent Texas, and the highest uninsured group in the state are Latinos,” Villanueva said. “The Affordable Care act helped a little bit, but it still has high co-pays, and people still can’t afford to buy their health insurance through the marketplace. We’ve tried making progress by passing the ACA, but it’s still not enough. We need to keep fighting for something more drastic that is more radical than other countries have been doing and doing successfully.”
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated already existing inequalities in the for-profit healthcare system, but according to Martinez another unexpected tragedy in Houston sparked another conversation on universal healthcare.
“In latest events the devastating consequence that happened at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival,” she said. “There were a lot of affected people who were worried about covering their hospitalization and EMT costs.”
Despite Garcia’s opposition to the policy, both Martinez and Villanueva said the coalition will continue to raise awareness, organize, and even bring this attention locally at the Harris County Commissioners Court.
“The purpose of organizing is to educate and on this matter, low-income families and community members are affected and the disparities are among not only class but race as well,” Martinez said. “That’s where I see us thriving and becoming an accessibility net and connecting with our neighbors. We can have bold change and something better for us.” Other groups in the coalition include the Houston Local Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America and Public Citizen
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.