It is difficult to understand how our politicians seem to forget that they live in one of the poorest counties in Texas. Thirty-five percent of the people live on an income that is below poverty. Almost 80% live on a fixed income and can’t afford to pay more for anything. The reason we should concentrate on politicians is because they are being used to sell the idea that paying more taxes is going to make everyone healthier. Before going any further, it is important to define what poverty means because there seems to be a misunderstanding. Poverty means no money; it does not mean we can put it on a credit card or that we can go to the bank and get a loan. For this reason, conservative groups like the Objective Watchers of the Legal System (OWLS) and the Prosperity Hidalgo PAC are in favor of free healthcare for indigents. This includes preventative medical care.
The bill (HB 1596) concerning the Healthcare District clearly states that its purpose is to provide healthcare for indigents. Hidalgo County, in cooperation with local hospitals, already has a program that provides free healthcare for indigents. Families can go the Hidalgo County Health Department and, if they qualify, can receive free healthcare services in local hospitals. In 2015, this program provided $15 million in free services. Based on presentations at the Commissioners Court, this program will be expanded. But, if the Healthcare bill is approved, Senator Juan Hinojosa has a bill that will terminate it. The existing legislation needs to be modified to allow community clinics to participate in this program, just like hospitals. The existing legislation was created by our senators and state representatives, so instruct these lawyers to include clinics in the program. By supporting the creation of a new taxing body, what our politicians are saying is that we should take more money from the poor and give it to the rich, for-profit hospitals so they can increase their profits. Some of the money from the proposed Healthcare Tax is scheduled to support the Medical School. Supporters of this tax do not seem to have any problem with taking money from the poor to support the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Medical School. They say it will provide a stable source of income. So who is going to create a stable employment source for the poor? It can take 10 to 15 years for a person to become a doctor. UTRGV has created a four-year program. The students graduating will have, on average, a debt of about 200 thousand dollars and will probably complete the requirements in some other part of our nation. If creating doctors is important, create an endowment and provide tuition for students from the Valley; do not burden families with a debt they cannot pay.
An important part of the conversation this community is having is that of educating our children in a variety of areas vital to obtaining a good paying job. A review of your annual tax bill indicates that Hidalgo County residents are currently paying a tax rate of $0.1850 to fund South Texas College. This college has several campuses in the county and provides many categories of study, including medicine. They are currently running a TV commercial featuring a picture of a young man indicating that he is a “surgeon-in-the-making”. This sounds like a doctor to me. Last year’s total tax amount allocated to South Texas College was $54.4 million which provided services to a little over 30,000 students. The college has cooperative agreements with not only UTRGV, but colleges in San Antonio and throughout the state. This allows students to take their basic courses locally and then transfer to a university of their choice. An important fact is that low income students can get their tuition paid by a Pell Grant. It is not necessary to increase taxes on the poor to get a good medical education.
The point is that we have come a long way when it comes to healthcare and it is not necessary to spend millions to build hospitals, create ambulance companies and nursing homes that compete with those in the private sector. Creating a taxing district with an appointed board of healthcare professionals and a target of 75 cents per $100 of value is a disaster waiting to happen. The only question is how long will it take for them to reach the 75 cents? Finally, there is no grant program specifically for Healthcare districts. Most federal or state programs can be accessed by a variety of applicants and our senators and representatives have shown a unique propensity for modifying the law to benefit their supporters.
It is important to understand that increasing taxes on the poor will only create more homeless families; that is not acceptable to a community that cares about its people. It seems that every month, the legal firm responsible for collecting taxes comes to the Commissioners Court to request permission to foreclose on properties. The best way to resolve this issue for another year is to vote “NO” on the Healthcare Taxing District in November. They expect you to stay home and complain when your tax bill comes. We hope you decide to disappoint them and vote “No”!Signed: