The Texas Healthcare Landscape

Healthcare professionals looking for warm weather and a fast-growing population to serve should consider moving to Texas. Data from the US Census Bureau shows that seven of the country’s 15 fastest-growing cities are located in the Lone Star State — San Antonio made the top of the list by adding more than 24,000 residents between 2016 and 2017, with its total population at 1.5 million. And other major cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin aren’t too far behind. Here are three things worth knowing about the healthcare landscape of Texas.

The uninsured rate is sky-high

As a healthcare professional, it’s understandable to want to focus on what care you can provide patients, instead of worrying about how patients will pay for that care. But while people around the country have problems funding their medical needs, the issue is especially dire in Texas. In September 2018, the Dallas Observer reported that 4.8 million Texans, or 17.3 percent of the population, went without health insurance in 2017. In 2016, that number stood at 4.5 million Texans.

When people say “everything’s bigger in Texas,” they probably weren’t referring to the uninsured rate, but the Lone Star State has the biggest percentage of adults without health insurance in the entire country. The Affordable Care Act has helped somewhat, but Texas politicians have rejected the Medicaid expansion that’s been implemented in the majority of states. And the Trump administration’s actions to undercut the ACA have also made it harder for many Texas residents to get health insurance through it.

Don’t count on Texas backing down from its refusal to expand Medicaid anytime soon, either, as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a courtroom charge aimed at getting the ACA thrown out entirely. If Texas wants to figure out a way to get more people health insurance, it’s not looking for help from the ACA.

There’s good medical training available

Texas has a poor physician-to-patient ratio, and to address that, it’s capped medical school tuition at around $6,550 a year for in-state students. That’s a real bargain compared to the cost of medical school on the east and west coasts.

State universities like the University of Texas at Austin abide by the tuition cap, but they’re not the only ones. The Baylor College of Medicine in Houston is a private medical school that doesn’t go over the cap either. As the biggest city in Texas, Houston is also a great place to get other healthcare training. You can find MSN programs in Houston that exist right alongside RN and MD programs. The city is a great place to both start and continue a career in the medical field.

Rural healthcare is struggling

If you prefer small-town living to life in an urban core, then you should know there are plenty of opportunities in lesser-known cities. The Rio Grande Valley in South Texas is an extremely poor and underserved community, which might explain why the recently opened University of Texas Rio Grande Valley gave its first class two years of tuition-free schooling.

Rural patients struggle to get the same quality of healthcare as people in big cities. The Dallas Morning News reports that overall hospital revenue was up even as more and more rural hospitals are shuttering their doors permanently. The paper said at least 14 rural hospitals had closed in the state since 2010. For instance, East Texas Medical Center in Clarksville shut down in 2014, forcing residents of that tiny town to travel either 30 miles west to Paris or 60 miles east to Texarkana if they required hospital care. That meant an opportunity for doctors and medical professionals, and as of 2017, someone in Clarksville decided to seize that opportunity. There are currently plans to open a 40-bed facility that will be known as Clarksville General Hospital. It remains to be seen how situations in other small towns will progress.