There has been much discussion, confusion, and misrepresentations regarding the creation of a healthcare district in Hidalgo County. I would like to offer some clarity and information to help Hidalgo County voters, and the Press, better understand this issue.

Why should Hidalgo County support Prop. 1 and the creation of a Healthcare District? It’s really quite simple. We need a Healthcare District.

One out every three people in Hidalgo County is uninsured. That’s about 250,000 of our neighbors.

Hidalgo County, like all counties in Texas, is required to spend a portion of its county budget on indigent care. It’s a responsibility mandated by law and our tax dollars are already allocated to cover the cost of healthcare for those in extreme poverty. Other major counties around the state have a public healthcare district to provide more coverage and access to quality care for their residents—we do not. Working families deserve better. Better access to healthcare, better quality of healthcare, and better treatment options.

My colleagues and I incorporated safeguards in the Healthcare District legislation that protects the tax payers. No other Healthcare District has this legislative protection. It requires that Hidalgo Co. Commissioners Court reduce the county’s tax rate since the Healthcare District will provide indigent healthcare and more. This is not a redundant tax and our legislators will not allow it to be.

Another taxpayer protection is the applicability of all homestead tax exemptions to Hidalgo County residents. This includes exemptions for those 65 years or older, the disabled, and the total exemption for 100% disabled veterans and their surviving spouses. No other district in the state has these exemptions. If you qualify for an exemption today, you keep your exemption.

No other Healthcare District in the state has a capped tax rate of 25 cents like we do- all others are capped at a rate 3 times as high.

A final taxpayer protection is the inclusion of a rollback tax provision. This provision ensures that the Healthcare District cannot raise the initial proposed 8 cent tax rate by one penny without triggering the rollback tax provision. If triggered, voters can petition to hold an election to reduce the tax increase. The power is yours.

In addition to these taxpayer protections and vital medical benefits, the Healthcare District would also afford the county better opportunities to draw down matching federal funds that we already pay. The local investment would include an estimated $24 million dollars that would be used to bring down a federal match of another $20 million. That is a total of $44 million dollars to improve access to quality care for EVERYONE. Our tax dollars are being distributed to other regions through their Healthcare Districts. It is time we get our fair share.

The Healthcare District community board is required to propose an annual budget which is subject to a public hearing. This means that YOU decide where the resources go whether it be directed towards community health clinics, mental health programs, supporting the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, training physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals, etc. This also allows the Healthcare District to operate or provide mobile health services. These are services that would directly benefit our elderly or home-bound population.

A Healthcare District in Hidalgo County would not only provide indigent health care services, but would also be a comprehensive, regional solution to our healthcare crisis, inclusive of the following benefits:

A healthcare district in Hidalgo County would improve health care services for Hidalgo County residents, and increase access for low-income, underinsured and uninsured.
A healthcare district in Hidalgo County would expand care at community clinics.
A healthcare district in Hidalgo County would support the UTRGV School of Medicine.
A healthcare district in Hidalgo County would address the medical professional shortage crisis.
A healthcare district in Hidalgo County would obtain state and federal funds for health care services.

These benefits are not just a fairy tale; they are written into the law. The community board, made up of regular Hidalgo County citizens, which governs the Healthcare District, will be responsible for setting forth the plan of action to accomplish the goals and needs of the area, guided by legislation and safeguards.

A Healthcare District, at a cost of less than $4 a month for the average homeowner — that’s less than the cost of 2 gallons of gas — will benefit the entire Hidalgo County region, help address critical health care issues affecting our residents, and create a legacy for our children and our grandchildren to continue building a community that cares about our health, wellbeing, and livelihood.

This November, put our Hidalgo County families’ health first and vote FOR PROPOSITION 1.