February 06, 2005
Collin County values

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."

Wow. That is quite possibly the most heartless thing I've ever heard a public official say. I don't suppose Ms. Cole, who no doubt considers herself to be a good Christian woman, has ever read The Masque of the Red Death. Moral values only extend to the county line, apparently.

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

There may need to be a "Marie Antoinette" award created for that woman. The thing could be tin carved into the shape of a cake.

Posted by: Linkmeister on February 6, 2005 1:43 PM

Dallas County should sue the pricks.

Posted by: Craig on February 6, 2005 2:31 PM

You seem to have an error:

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Posted by: Craig on February 6, 2005 2:32 PM

Why are counties stuck with so much of the responsibility for stop-gap health care? You're absoultely right, Charles.

A complete lack of responsibility from Austin on this one.

Posted by: Jim D on February 6, 2005 2:33 PM

I do think Dallas County should sue Collin County over this. It will start a war over the complete lack of responsibility from Austin Jim mentions in his comment.

Of course, I'm almost positive every single county commissioner in wealthy Collin County is a Republican, so they don't believe in a safety net or anything else for the poor except a dirty look.

Posted by: Vince Leibowitz on February 7, 2005 1:55 AM

Wasn't Plano the site of one of the big pre-release showings of "The Passion Of the Christ"? IIRC, one of the (many) huge evangelical churches there arranged the showing for members, and it was one of the largest screenings anywhere.

I'd be curious to see how said evangelical churches and their members support charitable health care. Unless the other parts of the Gospels don't count.

Posted by: CrispyShot on February 7, 2005 12:06 PM

So ashamed to be from that county...

So happy that I'll never live there again...

Posted by: Andrew D on February 7, 2005 1:30 PM

Jerry Hoagland (Collin Co Commissioner) says none of the people he's talking with want to raise taxes for increased county healthcare ... he's obviously not talking to the right people, or in the right way. Sometimes, the reason your message doesn't get across is because you don't convey it well enough to solicit results. If Jerry's heart was really into this, he would make it work.

Posted by: CD on February 10, 2005 2:06 PM

CrispyShot, what does a county full of Christians have to do with this? Unless you are on the outreach board at that church, how do you know that it is not making contributions to the hospitals in that county, or supplying financial aid to help patients supplement their hospital bills at the hospitals in the county? Why is it up to the Christians to bring restitution to a world full of the morally indignent? I believe you are pointing the finger in the wrong direction. Maybe non-Christians should do more to influence their county officials to change things. Maybe this is less about faith and more about getting off the couch and doing something besides complaining and casting stones.

Posted by: Michelle on February 10, 2005 3:42 PM