You can't afford to get sick in Collin County.
Flat broke, out of work for nine months and with only an old SUV to his name, William Wright was stunned to learn he is too well off for public health care in Collin County.
"I think I fit the idea of low-income," said Wright, 28, who last worked as a satellite-dish installer. "I'm no-income."
In June, he spent seven days in a McKinney hospital after a near-fatal highway accident. When Wright, who was uninsured, applied for county help to pay more than $50,000 in doctor and hospital bills, he found that Texas' wealthiest county — home to sprawling new houses, luxury stores and corporate campuses — gives little to help the poor in need of medical care.
"They said I made too much," said Wright, who would have to have earned less than $2,328 a year to qualify for indigent health care in Collin County.
Social workers in Plano, and Dallas County officials who say their public hospital is losing millions of dollars a year handling patients streaming in from their northern neighbor, have recently begun putting heat on Collin County to open its wallet and its heart.
But the county's fiscal conservatism has thus far proved to be an immovable force.
"You bet. We don't like to pay taxes," said Collin County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland. "Nobody I'm talking with wants to raise taxes to pay for this."
"They brag they haven't spent taxpayer money on this in 20 years," said Pam Kaus, health care coordinator for Collin County Interfaith. The group, which has been vocal on the issue, was rebuffed in 2003 when it sought county money to open a clinic.
[S]ome uninsured Collin County residents — 237 in 2003 — end up at Dallas County's taxpayer-funded Parkland Hospital.
Of those, Collin County reimbursed Dallas for one through its indigent trust fund.
Those in-patient stays, plus 4,575 outpatient visits by uninsured Collin County people that year, left Parkland $6 million in unpaid bills, according to an audit report.
Because of Parkland, Dallas County's taxes are double those of its northern neighbor.
"Parkland believes anybody who shows up should get health care. It's not our problem they don't qualify patients before they admit them," said Collin County Commissioner Phyllis Cole, who said she believes health care should be left to charities and the private sector. "I wish they would get off my back."
For all the complaining some parts of Texas has done about the redistributive nature of school funding, you'd think there might be more of a fuss about one county foisting its health care problems off on others. Maybe it's time there were.
UPDATE: Boadicea notes that any residents of Collin Cunty who happen to be reading this can give some feedback to Commissioner Cole on Monday.Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 06, 2005 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack