On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi participated in a healthcare roundtable at Dallas County Health and Human Services. Pelosi was joined by Rep. Colin Allred, local health care leaders, and North Texans who told their personal health care stories.
“On my first day in Congress, I led the charge to protect the Affordable Care Act from a reckless lawsuit in federal court, and today I was honored to welcome Speaker Pelosi to Dallas to meet with North Texans and discuss the progress we’ve made and the work ahead to lower costs,” said Allred. “Whether it is the high cost of health insurance or prescription drugs, or Texas’s failure to expand Medicaid – healthcare is one of the things I hear about most from North Texans.”
The panel included Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Phil Huang, Chief Development Officer at Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic Joleen Bagwell, Director of Alumni Engagement at the Nurse-Family Partnership, and Ashlei Watson. They were joined by Shane Thompson and George Nolan, both from Garland, who shared their stories about the high cost of prescription medications such as insulin.
Lowering the cost of prescription drugs has strong bipartisan support from the public but Congress has struggled to pass legislation to deal with the issue. A plan to curb costs was included in Democrat’s proposed Build Back Better agenda, but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) later said he would not support the bill, killing its chances in the 50-50 Senate. Manchin has recently signaled that he could support a slimmed-down version of the bill that would include prescription drug reform, though some progressives are skeptical that Manchin is actually willing to cut a deal.
Expanding Medicaid was also a major topic of discussion; Texas has both the highest rate and highest number of uninsured residents in the country and is one of only 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid. “This would expand lifesaving coverage to more than 1 million Texans, 1 million Texans, if we would just expand Medicaid here,” Allred said.
Dr. Phil Huang, Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, expressed concern about new COVID-19 variants. BA.2, a subvariant of Omicron that is currently causing an increase in cases in Europe and Asia. “We’ve still got a lot of people who still aren’t vaccinated. And, again, we don’t know how it’s all going to play out. We hope it keeps staying down,” Huang said. “But if a new variant comes out, we’re going to need more testing. We’ve been here before where we thought we’d gotten through this.” The American Rescue Plan provided money for testing, vaccinations, and the treatment of uninsured COVID patients, but health care leaders are concerned now that those funds are running out.