EDINBURG, RGV – The president of the Texas Medical Association says these are very unsettling times for everyone involved in the healthcare industry.
Dr. Carlos Cardenas had a one-hour conversation with Rio Grande Guardian publisher Mark Hanna that was broadcast live on Facebook on Tuesday. The Texas Medical Association is the nation’s largest state medical society with over 50,000 physician and medical student members.
Cardenas made his comments about these being “very unsettling times” for the healthcare industry just an hour before the U.S. Senate voted to begin debate on a bill to repeal major provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Hanna asked Cardenas about the future of the 1115 Waiver, which allows federal Medicaid funds to be accessed by states in ways that are not otherwise allowed under federal rules. The Waiver is seen as crucial to hospitals and healthcare providers in Texas because the state did not take advantage of expanded Medicaid opportunities under the Affordable Care Act.
Under the 1115 Waiver, for example, Hidalgo County’s indigent health program gets coverage, with local hospitals matching federal dollars received. The funding goes to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and comes back to pay for physician coverage, hospital care and pharmacy.
Cardenas said he is not sure if the Waiver will still be around after 2019.
“What happens in terms of the Affordable Care Act? What happens with the replacement legislation in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Congress, will have an impact on whether that (the 1115 Waiver) remains viable and in place,” Cardenas said.
“The only thing we can say, today, is that the only constant in healthcare is change and what form, shape, color, and flavor that change is going to come in, we just don’t know. It is a very unsettling time, I think, for people in the healthcare industry across the country.”
Cardenas is co-founder of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR). Hanna asked him about the new technologies available at DHR. Cardenas replied that the Rio Grande Valley deserved great healthcare.
“A population of 1.4 million people deserves the healthcare of any other similarly sized metropolitan area in this country. There is no reason we should not have what every other community of this size has. Beyond that our relative geographic isolation and what I like to call our demographic isolation makes it an absolute necessity that we bring these technologies, these abilities to treat patients, right here in the Rio Grande Valley.”
Asked if he could ever have imagined the impact DHR has had on healthcare in the Valley, Cardenas said:
“I pinch myself almost every morning because I can’t believe we have been able to do and accomplish what we have been able to do and accomplish in the last 20 years. In that period of time we have been able to build a medical system, a hospital system second to none.
“At the same time (DHR has been able to) create the environment and absolutely advocate for the creation of a medical school for our community; build residency programs that make that all come together; to build a medical school in a part of Texas that has needed a medical school, has been after a medical school for 70 years. That I have been able to watch it come to fruition in my lifetime and in the lifetime of my father has been an absolute and true blessing.”
Hanna’s last question to Cardenas was about this year’s annual Border Health Conference hosted by the Border Health Caucus. The event takes place on the DHR campus at Edinburg Conference at Renaissance on Aug. 4. The BHC hosts the conference ever year. Its venue alternates between the border region and Washington, D.C. In the past, the event has been held in El Paso, Laredo and McAllen.
“The Border Health Caucus is made up of the medical societies along the Texas-Mexico border and including Nueces County and Bexar County. We are sponsoring a conference to address a variety of issues that may be unique to the border and its population,” Cardenas said.