EDINBURG, November 25 - A key advisor to the RGV Equal Voice Network will be speaking at the UT Vista Summit at UT-Pan American on Wednesday.
Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, advises Equal Voice on health care issues. The focus of the Vista Summit is health care disparities, a big issue for the underserved Rio Grande Valley. The region, with a population approaching 1.5 million, has 110 doctors per 100,000 people, which is half the national rate and well below the state average.
“The VISTA Summit is going to look broadly at how health can be improved in the Valley. That is a big question of course, and access to medical care is just one part of health,” Dunkelberg told the Guardian.
“My role will be to inform and engage the participants around the state-government policy issues affecting access to care in the Valley, which will of course include Medicaid, CHIP, the Affordable care Act, and the state budget challenge.”
Dunkelberg’s value to Equal Voice was explained by Ann Cass, chair of the group’s health coalition.
“Anne Dunkelberg has been a great resource for the Equal Voice network and especially our health coalition,” Cass said. “She is immediately available whenever we have any question regarding health care, the 1115 Waiver, Obamacare, etc.”
Cass said the CPPP “sends out great updates, links to fact sheets, and one page speaking points.” She said the CPPP’s ‘Train the Trainers’ program on Obamacare “was terrific and allowed us to reach so many more people in the Valley after 75 trainers were trained by Mimi Garcia.”
Cass added: “It is such a relief to know that Anne is doing the research and has the facts available to us when we need them. We applaud her and the work of the staff at CPPP."
The Vista Summit takes place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the UTPA Ballroom. It is the third in a series of summits being held in the Valley by the UT System. The theme is "What can we do to improve health in the Rio Grande Valley,” and aims to address health care disparities in the Valley and explore ways to create a healthier community.
In addition to Dunkelberg, other participants include Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, Dr. Ken Shine, the soon-to-retire executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the UT System; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president; Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, UTB president; Dr. Joe McCormick, vice president for South Texas Programs at the UT Health Science Center-San Antonio and regional dean; and Gil Penalosa, executive director of 8-80 Cities.
Representatives from other area institutions of higher learning, hospital systems, public health organizations, businesses and municipalities will also participate.
The first Vista Summit took place at UT-Brownsville in October, 2011. It brought together local, state and national leaders from education, business, health, philanthropy and other areas to discuss ways to transform the Rio Grande Valley — one of the fastest growing regions in the country — into a thriving community.
The second Vista Summit was held in April at UTPA and focused on education. At the event, UTPA, UTB and other area higher education and K-12 institutions presented to philanthropic groups four initiatives on how to strengthen the high school to college pipeline.
For more information on the UT Vista Summit, visit www.vistasummit.com.
Last week, Dunkelberg spoke at a rally at the state Capitol in Austin to highlight the My Medicaid Matters campaign.
“The My Medicaid Matters Texas campaign was first spearheaded by groups of Texans with disabilities, who rely on Medicaid every day for basic health care but also for the long term services and supports that allow them to live in the community and as independently as possible,” Dunkelberg said. “The primary goal is to educate Texans and our lawmakers about the 3.6 million real people, jobs and families behind the name, ‘Medicaid’.”
Among the founders of My Medicaid Matters is ADAPT, a grassroots disability rights group. The group is angry Gov. Rick Perry has declined to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid in Texas. According to health care analysts, accepting $124 billion dollars from the federal government would insure nearly two million Texans and generate over $400 billion in economic growth.
“Medicaid funding means jobs for hundreds of thousands of Texans, and it helps us sustain the health care system for all of us,” said Bob Kafka, a co-founder to ADAPT. “All Texans benefit when crucial Medicaid health and community services get the support they need, and when eligible people have the health and community services Medicaid offers.”