By Perdita Henry
Our current circumstances as a country and as a state are difficult, to say the least. The pandemic has widened every chasm between the have and the have nots. It’s exposed the inequities faced by people of color and women across the spectrum in every aspect. We should all want the best for our communities and empathize with those facing hard situations, but public policy – and the support of it – is a way to turn desire and empathy into action.
“At Every Texan, we envision a Texas where people of all backgrounds can contribute to and share in the prosperity of our state,” Stacey Pogue, Senior Policy Analyst, says. “In Texas, opportunity isn’t the same for everyone. People are working hard to support their families and contribute to our state, but too many Texans can’t access the conditions they need to thrive. Limited access to affordable health care, a quality education, and good jobs holds them back.”
Every Texan – formally the Center for Public Policy Priorities – understands the role public policy plays in ensuring that Texans, no matter their class or ethnicity, have the opportunities needed to take care of themselves and their families.
“One of the most effective ways to make sure every Texan has access to these conditions is to strengthen public policy,” Pogue says. “And that’s where we focus our work: We strengthen public policy to expand opportunity and equity for every Texan. We focus on policies that enable Texans of all backgrounds to thrive, and expose unfair barriers faced by people of color, low-income Texans, immigrants, women, children, and other systematically disenfranchised populations.”
You all recently underwent a name change and rebranding effort! What inspired these changes and what do you hope it will accomplish?
Our long-standing mission remains the same – to make Texas the best state to live in, where Texans of all backgrounds have a fair opportunity to thrive. Our new name, Every Texan, better reflects who we are and our social justice vision for Texas. The new name Every Texan focuses on our state's greatest resource – our people.
This year marks our 35th anniversary. The rebranding is part of our strategic plan, and we feel the new name will attract more Texans to the effort to expand opportunity and equity for every Texan. We are excited for the possibilities the new brand opens.
The Affordable Care Act is ten years old this year. Why is the ACA integral to continue keeping Texans healthy?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made health coverage and health care more accessible to Texans. It has resulted in a historic drop in the uninsured rate nationally and in Texas, despite consistent refusal by state leaders to fully implement the law. The ACA has also led to historic reductions in racial and ethnic disparities in both health coverage and health care access. Having health coverage matters. It improves financial security and access to health care. People who are uninsured are more likely to delay or skip needed care due to cost and more likely to struggle to pay their medical bills. More than 1.1 million Texans signed up for coverage in the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace at the beginning of 2020, which provides financial help to people with modest incomes to make coverage affordable. Enrollment is likely far higher now due to staggering COVID-related job losses. The Marketplace makes affordable coverage available to many people who’ve lost their jobs and job-based health insurance.
The ACA also put important consumer protection in place. It prevents insurance companies from denying coverage or charging more to people who have pre-existing health conditions. It also prevents insurers from charging women higher premiums for the same coverage. The ACA improved policies that used to have big gaps in coverage, including no or limited coverage of essential care like maternity, prescription drugs, and treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. It also ensures that preventive health care, like contraception and cancer screenings, are available with no out-of-pocket costs, so people can afford to get the care needed to stay healthy.
The 2020 Census has begun. How are you all encouraging people to participate and what suggestions do you have for organizations who’d like to do the same?
The 2020 Census is here! It is important for Texas to get a complete and accurate account because the Census:
Determines the allocation of federal funds to important programs and services;
Informs our political representation in Congress as well as the redistricting process; and
Provides useful data that helps businesses, government, and other entities in our communities make important decisions.
As folks across Texas lead get-out-the-count efforts to ensure their communities are counted, Every Texan has been leading a statewide campaign to support their efforts. Texas Counts is a statewide collaborative effort working to engage cross-sector leaders and organizations to leverage, amplify, and share resources to help get out the count in Texas. Texas Counts is your one-stop-shop for all things Census in Texas as we serve as a partner, connector, and hub for this work. Texas Counts has engaged hundreds of folks across Texas through our campaigns, subcommittees, weekly newsletter, 1-on-1 support, trainings, and Census weekly update. If you're interested in helping get-out-the-count in Texas, check-out Texascounts.org for more info!
COVID-19 has made life much harder for the most vulnerable among us. What are some of the policy changes Every Texan supports that would have made things easier for people?
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis have disproportionately harmed communities of color in Texas and underscore existing inequities. Black and Latino communities are dealing with higher rates of layoffs than their White neighbors, and immigrant families are being systematically excluded from state and federal COVID-19 relief efforts. These troubling inequities underscore the ways in which America’s history of racism, bias, and discrimination have remained embedded in its health, social, and economic systems.
Every Texan has developed a policy road map with short-term policy solutions to save lives and livelihoods during the pandemic, and a long-term policy vision that helps Texans of all backgrounds thrive. Some of the items we are advocating for include:
Expanding Medicaid, to cover more than 1.5 million uninsured adults in Texas. Some Texans who’d gain coverage have recently become uninsured as they lost jobs due to COVID. Others are essential workers in low-wage jobs that don’t provide insurance, including day care workers, retail clerks, and home health aides.
Increasing SNAP benefits for every eligible Texan to better reflect the true cost of a healthy diet and extending Pandemic-EBT to cover summer meals and beyond.
Enacting statewide paid sick leave or allowing local communities to decide if they want to offer much-needed benefits to workers and families.
Reducing administrative burdens for receiving unemployment benefits and ensuring workers do not lose benefits if they do not feel safe returning to their workplace.
Securing federal stimulus dollars to help close state and local revenue gaps and support critical services and using the Economic Stabilization Fund (“Rainy Day Fund”) to maintain critical services and reduce the state revenue gap.
Why is it important for your organization to be a TWHC member?
TWHC pulls together key groups in the state to advocate for policy changes to improve women’s health and access to contraception. Working together to improve outcomes has been especially important since 2011, when the Texas Legislature slashed funding for family planning and put policies in place to remove Planned Parenthood, which served more women in state family planning programs than any other provider by far. Since then, some of the damage has been reversed, but at the same time, programs have been in a constant state of upheaval from programmatic and administrative changes, exacerbating burdens for providers and barriers for women.
Every Texan has been proud to be a member of the Coalition’s steering committee since it was founded. We bring knowledge in state family planning programs, Medicaid waivers, and the state budget to the table, and we benefit from the knowledge of Coalition members who directly administer state programs, provide clinical knowledge, and other key expertise.
What does an ideal future for women’s health look like according to Every Texan?
Women would get the preventive care they need to stay healthy and treatment needed to overcome illness regardless of their income, immigration status, race and ethnicity, where they live, and age. (And men too!) Unlike today, women with few means wouldn’t just have access to limited-scope family planning programs, which provide contraception but little else. They’d have comprehensive health coverage through Medicaid/CHIP, Medicare, the Marketplace, or their job. That coverage would include contraception with no out-of-pocket costs along with other needed care – doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, maternity, mental health, hospital care, etc. – to facilitate both access to comprehensive care and financial security from unaffordable medical debt.
For women and Texans more broadly to be healthy, we need to also look beyond healthcare. The opportunity for good health begins in our families, neighborhoods, schools and jobs. Every Texan should have the opportunity to make the choices that allow them to live a long, healthy life, regardless of their income, education, or racial and ethnic background. That’s why we are working toward a vision where every Texan’s opportunity is no longer bound by vast disparities in wealth and financial security, education, access to nutrition, good jobs, paid family and sick leave, and access to good housing and thriving communities.