On Rural Health Day, A Reminder That Abbott Is Making Rural Communities Sicker

AUSTIN, Texas — For Texas, this year’s Rural Health Day falls amidst a sobering landscape of anti-health, anti-Texan policies advanced by disgraced Gov. Greg Abbott. For years, Texas GOP policies have kept Texans from getting the health care they need — creating disproportionate health obstacles for small-town Texans. The COVID-19 pandemic has both exacerbated those issues and provided new opportunities for Texas Republicans to put rural Texans’ health at risk, leading to the following troubling data points:

  • More and more rural hospitals have been forced to close over the years because of Texas Republicans’ refusal to expand Medicaid and allow more Texans to get health insurance. Texas is the most uninsured state in the country, and under Medicaid expansion, nearly a million Texans would become eligible for affordable health care. However, Texas Republicans have refused the option, leaving billions of dollars in federal funding on the table. That choice is not only leaving people without affordable health care, but also stopping smaller rural hospitals from getting the funding they need to keep their doors open — creating a snowball effect cutting people in rural communities off from health care.
  • Nearly two years into a devastating pandemic, Abbott and Republicans have continued to block the expansion — despite having ample opportunity via a bipartisan bill put forward in the spring 2021 legislative session.
  • While denying Texans access to care to keep them healthy, Abbott has also elevated health risks for Texans everywhere through his dangerous, irresponsible pandemic policies. Abbott recently announced a lawsuit to try to block President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandates for workers — despite evidence showing unvaccinated Texans are being hospitalized and dying at vastly higher rates than vaccinated Texans. Meanwhile, Texas ICUs are still teetering on the brink of running out of beds — with at least 28 Texas hospitals reporting that their ICU beds were filled to capacity between November 5 and November 11.

While Abbott continues to neglect Texans’ health and safety, President Biden has taken action to fill the gaps. With his Build Back Better framework, President Biden is continuing to expand affordable health care — and is specifically including a provision designed to work around states that have refused to expand Medicaid. Meanwhile, thanks to his successful Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, President Biden is also funneling resources to help boost quality of life and economic firepower in rural Texas communities. The infrastructure bill will ease commute times, open up broadband access for the 14% of Texas homes without internet, and create good, well-paying jobs across the state.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:

“Today, we’re marking Rural Health Day, but in Texas, rural communities are facing a sobering reality: less and less health care access, and more and more health risks, because Texas Republicans refuse to help people get the basic care they need. One by one, rural hospitals are closing — because Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans have refused to accept the billions of dollars of federal money that’s just sitting on the table. Instead of using these resources to get more Texans health care and help small-town health care providers keep their doors open, Abbott is creating health care deserts across rural Texas. It’s as if Abbott wants us to get sick.

“If you work hard every day and come home tired, you should be able to get health care. Greg Abbott seems to think the opposite — because hundreds of thousands of Texans are working hard every day and still have to choose between paying the rent or taking on medical bills. That’s just plain wrong, and Democrats are going to do something about it. I’m grateful that President Biden is finding a way to get rural Texans the health coverage they need — even when our governor is doing his best to block it.”