Texas Tribune to host healthcare forum in Edinburg

From left, Evan Smith, Co-founder and CEO of The Texas Tribune, Rep. Robert “Bobby” Guerra, D-Mission, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Oscar Longoria, D-Mission during The Rio Grande Valley & The 86th Legislature event by The Texas Tribune on June 10, 2019 in Edinburg, Texas. Verónica G. Cárdenas for The Texas Tribune

As the Rio Grande Valley goes, so goes the state of Texas.

The region is both ahead of the curve when it comes to demographics and behind it when it comes to healthcare access. That’s why it’s the perfect setting for The Texas Tribune’s upcoming conversation, dubbed The Future of Healthcare, Tribune CEO Evan Smith said.

“It is the most important part of the state. It is the part of the state that is where the rest of the state will be from a population and an issue set,” Smith said. “Where the Valley is today, the rest of the state will be in 10 or 15 or 20 years. It’s the leading indicator.”

Texas ranks worst among the 50 states in terms of the number of people and the percentage of people who have access to health insurance, and it also has the highest number of uninsured children in the country, Smith said, adding border regions are particularly bad.

“Until recently, and possibly still today, four of the five most uninsured counties in the entire country are along the Texas-Mexico border,” he said. “So there’s both an opportunity and there’s a need to have this conversation in this place.”

The Valley is twice as uninsured as the rest of the state and four times the national average, but it’s also very much a part of the conversation.

“The healthcare conversation is extremely robust in the Valley, partly by design and probably by necessity,” Smith said. “By design, there is just a lot of discussion of how you reduce disparities, how you increase access, how you innovate and transform and disrupt the way that we think about healthcare today.,” he said. “And so it makes a lot of sense if you’re going to do a series of conversations around the issues affecting health care in Texas, that you go to a place that is the locus of all that discussion and that is the Valley.”

The event will be held Jan. 29 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance and promises to bring together community leaders, lawmakers, and industry and policy experts.

“Anybody who was already in this conversation, this is a must-attend because you’re going to have fellow professionals; you’re going to have leaders in healthcare provision and access; you’re going to have the leading members of our legislature and other state officials who are going to be part of this conversation on an ongoing basis,” Smith said.

Discussion topics will include how to address Texas’ uninsured populations, rising health care costs, the role technology will play in healthcare, access to healthcare in Texas’ rural communities and how to educate the next generation of medical professionals, among others.

“There are a bunch of different intersections, environmental health, the intersection of gender and health care,” Smith said, inviting industry professionals to attend.

“But I would say that it is as important for what I think of as civilians to be there because here’s the thing, every single person in Texas is affected by policies at the state level, around healthcare,” he said. “So I think if you’re interested to understand where all this is going and how it might affect your life, this is a great opportunity to come and hear from some of the smartest and most powerful people on subject.

“In Harry Potter terms, it’s both for witches and also for muggles. Everybody should be part of this conversation.”