A Diagnosis for Health Care in Texas

Later this week, Texas 2036 CEO Margaret Spellings will speak to nearly 1,000 people at the Healthier Texas Summit, a two-day gathering in Austin focused on empowering leaders from diverse sectors with proven approaches for improving the health of our state. 

The mission of the conference fits well with the work we are doing here at Texas 2036: using data and thoughtful analysis to create support for long-term strategies that will ensure a successful future. Health and health care are at the heart of that work. In fact, like a lot of other issues, we take a broad view of health that realizes neither privately nor publicly funded care should be discussed in a vacuum and that leading healthy lives is about more than the health care system.

Our long-term goal is for Texans to achieve better health outcomes at a cost affordable to businesses, government, and individuals. And that starts by recognizing where we are: 

  • Health care costs are growing rapidly. On average, per capita health care expenditures have grown 4.8% a year in Texas, which is faster than spending growth in California and Florida.
  • The challenge is exacerbated by the growth of our population — especially among older Texans. Between 2010 and 2050, the population of Texans who are 65 and older is expected to grow by 263 percent. This demographic shift matters because most older adults have chronic health issues and many need long-term care services.
  • Cost growth in health care directly affects individual consumers. Potential out-of-pocket costs for employer-based health insurance grew 8.5 percent between 2016 and 2017.
  • Despite increases in spending, poor outcomes and disparities persist. Our Texas health system, when compared to other states, ranks at or near the bottom in access and affordability, prevention and treatment, and health care disparity. 
  • Millions of Texans lack access to quality care. Texas continues to have the highest uninsured rate in the country. Meanwhile, 5.5 million Texans live in a primary care health professional shortage area and 12 million Texans live in a mental health provider shortage area.
  • 60 to 70% of deaths in Texas are caused by chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. 

Even more information is available on our interactive Come and Make It data explorer. There you will see why it’s so important to take a different approach to these issues — one that looks well past the political constraints of the moment and instead focuses on broader strategies that focus both on improving the health care system and, just as importantly, helping Texans improve their own individual health and well-being. It starts with data; we believe better data, and better use of data — by individuals, health care providers, government, and insurance companies —will lead to better outcomes, greater access, and more affordability.

We are going to continue to share information about health — where Texas is, where we’re headed, and where we could be headed with the right investments and decisions. While there is a lot of work ahead, there’s no doubt that committed Texans who are working together can address and overcome these challenges. We hope you will be part of this effort and offer your own feedback about ways we can improve outcomes, control costs, and help create a better future for millions of Texans.