July 30, 2015

One out of every 10 children in the United States lives in Texas, and one in four of these children is likely to live in poverty. How many of those children go without health care because they are uninsured?

It’s a staggering concern and one we take to heart here at Texas Children’s. For me, regardless of my own political beliefs, when I hear these numbers, and I think about all the children and families who need our help, I can’t help but ask myself how we can do better.

More than half of the patients seen at Texas Children’s Hospital are covered by Medicaid, a program that celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. It was July 30, 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Amendments of 1965 and established the Medicare and Medicaid programs. From that moment, health care became more accessible to the most vulnerable of our U.S. population.

In the 50 years since then, Medicaid has benefitted millions of children and pregnant women – including hundreds of thousands of Texas Children’s patients. Medicaid-designated funds for research have helped us advance pediatric medicine for the benefit of all of our patients, not just those covered by Medicaid. In fact, it’s core to our mission here at Texas Children’s and the principles on which we were founded.

And while Medicaid remains a major part of health care in the U.S., our world today is quite different than the one in which it was created. Medicaid needs to be adapted to the practices of 21st century medicine, and the discourse surrounding it should address the long-term viability and reforms necessary to preserve a program that serves the most vulnerable of our community: impoverished pregnant women and children.

The simple truth is our federal and state governments save money by investing in health care for our children. When kids grow up with regular health exams, immunizations and care for childhood illnesses, they are more likely to become adults who are healthy and productive taxpayers.

Reform is slow but on the horizon, in the form of policies at the state and national levels, as well as homegrown efforts like many Texas Children’s has already implemented, to make health care more accessible for our own underserved population here in Houston and the surrounding areas.

Here, we are constantly working to advance health care access for our Medicaid patients. Through the creation of community resources such as The Center for Children and Women in Greenspoint and Southwest Houston, we are ensuring care is readily accessible in the community where our patients need it most.

This year, we added our sixth Texas Children’s Pediatrics Community Cares practice to provide access to pediatric primary care in some of Houston’s most underserved communities. When we have these families in our care, we connect them to vital health and social services and help them enroll in Medicaid through our health plan if they are uninsured. Without this program, many of these families would seek care from emergency rooms or possibly go without treatment due to low family incomes and/or lack of health insurance.

We advocate for Medicaid support and continued reform because we know it’s the right thing to do for our patients. This is because we know who our patients are. They are hardworking, and they want the best for their children and their families. And they are like many people who rely on Medicaid at some point. Almost 80 percent of children who were enrolled in Medicaid in 2013 lived with at least one parent who worked. That same year, 65 percent of adults on Medicaid were also part of a working family.

Many of these families don’t earn enough to afford private coverage and are desperate for a way to provide the right health care for their children. For many of our patient families, Medicaid covers those who would otherwise face financial ruin due to a catastrophic medical diagnosis or unexpected event. Medicaid is a safety net for everyone because we are all one medical crisis or catastrophic event away from financial ruin. It is a stepping stone for people when the unexpected occurs.

You and I know these families, and we know their stories. It’s our duty to remind others how essential Medicaid is for our community and for those families who truly need it.

 

Get involved

This session, lawmakers failed to invest in Medicaid, a program that promotes economic stability for our state. Leaders need to have a longer-term vision than just two years. I am hopeful that during the interim, lawmakers will engage with various stakeholders – those providing care and those who consider its policies – to craft a 21st century Medicaid program that aligns Texas values with the actual needs of Texans.

Our government relations team acts as the advocate for children and women in Austin and Washington D.C. They work to educate legislators about why Medicaid matters and why it’s so essential to patients like ours. You can join their efforts by contacting your representatives and encouraging your friends and family to do the same.

As we acknowledge the 50th anniversary for this crucial program, I encourage you to advocate for health care that is available to all who need it, not just those who can afford it.

http://www.texaschildrens.org/Learn/Legislative-Advocacy/

July 10, 2015

Leadership always influences or determines outcomes – not some of the time, but all of the time.

This is the first of my 10 maxims of leadership, and I believe it wholeheartedly. I always enjoy observing great leadership in action at Texas Children’s. Because I know where there is great leadership, there are inspired people doing phenomenal work to advance our mission. Such was the case as I visited our Texas Children’s locations this week.

On July 6, I kicked off the One Amazing Team tour to visit more than 60 Texas Children’s facilities, including Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care sites, Texas Children’s Health Centers, our Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinics and The Center for Children and Women locations. My team and I started with our practices in North Houston, and, in all, we visited 13 Texas Children’s locations this week.

The smiles and warmth that greeted us at each location was amazing. People were happy about serving our patients and being a part of Texas Children’s. And our patients were happy. Many of them were anxious to tell me how long they’d been coming to the physicians and caregivers at a particular practice and about the great care their family receives. Arlene, a mother I met in the waiting room at Texas Children’s Pediatrics FM 2920, had nothing but kind things to say about the staff and employees there who have become part of her extended family.

 

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Also, each location was simply beautiful. Bright, vibrant and clean. Fun, seasonal décor greeted patients at some sites, and inspirational posters and signage encouraged team members at others. I loved walking through each site, knowing that this is what families see when they enter a Texas Children’s location. Obviously, this is important to the patient and family experience. A well-maintained site helps reassure families about the care they will receive there. It also imparts a consistency and level of quality that strengthens the Texas Children’s brand.

But what made the most indelible impression on me was the leadership on display. At each stop, the first person to greet our team was the practice manager or another staff leader. They took such evident pride in their respective facility and team. I spent a good deal of time talking with each of them about their patient volumes and demographics, and overall patient culture. They asked thoughtful questions, and they shared great ideas.

Everyone I met on our tour was on fire for Texas Children’s and passionate about their work. It gave me even more confidence about the growth we will experience in the next few years as we dramatically expand Texas Children’s and our workforce to meet the needs of our patients and their families.

Walking through the many Texas Children’s sites, hearing your stories and knowing of your long-time commitment to Texas Children’s, I know that your dedication and love for this organization will only multiply as so many new people join us. Because it is clear that the Texas Children’s culture of leadership knows no geographical barriers.

Follow the One Amazing Team tour on social media

My team and I will resume the One Amazing Team tour in August, with several dates scheduled to visit more Texas Children’s sites. You can see where we’re going and all the fun we’re having on the road by following us on social media:

Twitter: @TexasChildrens

Instagram: oneamazingteam

July 3, 2015

Anyone who sits with me long enough is bound to hear a story or two about my upbringing in the church. Some of my best memories as a child are of times spent there with my family. One of my absolute favorite memories is of our church’s Fourth of July picnic at Odom Lake.

It was one of the grandest events of the year for our church, and all the families would come. In total, about 400 or 500 of us turned out. The ladies all brought coleslaw, potato salad and other side dishes, and the church provided the fried chicken or barbecue. And every single family had their White Mountain ice cream maker in tow. I remember how my brother Greg and I would take turns making the ice cream – he’d sit on top while I cranked, and then we’d switch. We always made either vanilla, banana or peach ice cream.

I loved how generations of families were there – grandparents, parents and all the kids. We’d play softball, volleyball and horseshoes, and it was just a really good time. One of the parts that amazed me most was what happened after dinner. As the sun set, Brother Hugh Bumpas, our pastor, would wade into the water, as the entire congregation gathered along the banks of Odom Lake.

Brother Bumpas would give a sermon, always acknowledging our courageous military men and women, and we’d sing patriotic songs before he began the baptisms. He would baptize about 25 or 30 people every year, right there in the lake on the Fourth of July, and I always thought that was pretty awesome.

Then once it was dark, the fireworks show started. Everybody settled down on their blankets with their families, and we’d watch the fireworks light up the sky and crackle down over the lake. The show went on for about an hour, and it was the best ever. Celebrating the Fourth of July is one of my best childhood memories. The fireworks, the families, the friends … the freedom to fellowship just as we pleased. It’s something I think about every year as we acknowledge our country’s Independence Day.

My family joined hundreds of other Baptist families by that lake to celebrate in a way that was special to us. And all over the nation, every year, other families celebrate this same holiday in countless ways that are meaningful to them. That’s one of the strengths of our great nation. We were founded on principles of freedom. The freedom to dream and to pursue what’s important to each one of us. And our country became great because we grew into a place where dreams could be fulfilled in a way that they could not be elsewhere. Our founding fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in support of these freedoms.

Texas Children’s Hospital began in much the same way. Our founding fathers, Jim Abercrombie and Leopold L. Meyer, committed a generous amount of their fortunes to found Texas Children’s in 1954 with the conviction that every sick or hurt child could come here for care, regardless of race, religion or ability to pay. More than 60 years ago, they had the vision and embraced the freedom to create a place where healing was not limited, where all would be welcome. And to this day, we are still deeply rooted in this belief.

Every day, we advance that legacy by pledging our sacred honor to care for all the children, women and families who come to us for help and healing. So when I think about the Fourth of July, my mind immediately goes to the food, fun and fellowship we enjoyed by that lake so many years ago. But what settles in my heart today is a deep appreciation for the freedom we all enjoy to strive for whatever we define as the American dream.

Happy Fourth of July and God bless.