Lambda Legal Urges TX Gov. Abbott to Expand Medicaid During COVID-19 Pandemic

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April 24, 2020

Today, Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas urged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Commissioner of Health Services to expand Medicaid coverage to ensure all uninsured Texans can access critical testing and other medical services during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Lambda Legal underscored the particular threat the pandemic poses to LGBTQ Texans and Texans living with HIV, a higher percentage of whom lack health insurance and suffer adverse health outcomes than the general Texas population.

“It is well-established that key to containing the spread of COVID-19 is wide-spread testing, contact-tracing and containment,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Shelly Skeen said. “It is also well-established that uninsured individuals are less likely to seek medical care. Among LGBTQ Texans, the uninsured rate stands at 26 percent. Coupled with underlying adverse health conditions that are especially prevalent among LGBTQ Texans, this population is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.”

“The exposure and vulnerability is especially pronounced among transgender Texans, fully 34 percent of whom live in poverty and 77 percent lack identify documents that match their gender,” said Avery Belyeu, Regional Director, South Central Regional Office, Lambda Legal. “If Texas is sincere in its efforts to battle the public health risk created by COVID-19, it must ensure that all Texans, not just the insured, have access to critical medical services during this crisis, including LGBTQ Texans and Texans living with HIV, so that they can be promptly diagnosed, treated and the virus contained.”

In its letter to Gov. Abbott, Lambda Legal states:

In the wake of the devastation created by COVID-19, all uninsured Texans will suffer, not just uninsured LGBT Texans. If Texas does not provide temporary and expanded Medicaid coverage for all uninsured Texans, the economic costs to the State will significantly increase as: (1) uninsured Texans seek treatment for COVID-19; (2) uninsured Texans who wait to seek health care will more likely lose their lives; and (3) these consequences will likely affect the ability of the Texas economy to recover after the Pandemic.

“Researchers at the University of Texas estimate Texas will hit its peak COVID-19 infection point at the end of April to early May and perhaps later,” Skeen added. “It is critical that Gov. Abbott expand Medicaid, even on a temporary basis, now so that the state has the tools necessary to test and treat all Texans and contact-trace and contain the pandemic as much as possible.”