In Texas, Not Enough Doctors to Go Around

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Michael MarksSeptember 12, 2016 2:21 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Health care access in Texas ranks among the worst in the country, according to a new report from the personal finance website WalletHub.

They examined in health care costs, access, and outcomes each state and Washington D.C. and used that data to create an overall health care quality rank. Texas came in at number 33.

WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez explained why health care access dragged down Texas’ ranking.

“We looked at the public hospital system rank – which Texas is actually ranked in the top 15 when it comes to quality. It’s more so how many physicians, nurse practitioners, P.A.s and dentists there are to go around,” Gonzalez says. “There’s a lot of people in Texas and unfortunately there’s not a lot of doctors and physicians to cover them. That leads to a longer E.R. wait time, sometimes higher insurance payments… Texas was in the bottom 10 in terms of how many active physicians there are per 100,000 residents  – at about 213. Just to give you an idea, Massachusetts is up near 500, New York up near 400, so almost double here.”

Texas fared better in other metrics like health care costs before insurance, but that’s blunted by the fact that Texas has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the country.

An oil well in southeast Texas is drawing scrutiny over its proximity to Lake Houston. The lake provides much of the area’s drinking water and a city ordinance says oil and gas wells must be drilled at least a thousand feet away from the lake.

Dave Fehling of Houston Public Media reports that if a well blew out the thousand feet would be a buffer that could stop any flow of oil, or chemicals, or other fluids before they reached the lake.

“But here’s the thing,” he says, “there’s been a lot of oil found very near Lake Houston. The lake lies just east of Humble, home of the Humble oil filed that a century ago was one of the nation’s richest finds. Today you can go online and pull up a list of well sites, and you can see dozens of old, plugged wells very near the Lake Houston shore. But you can also find wells that are active, producing oil, and in a couple of locations you can find where the state has issued new wells to be drilled. One of those is 3,700 feet near the lake’s northeast shore near the city of Huffman and a subdivision called Lakewood Heights.”

The site is also a quarter of a mile from an elementary school. The city of Houston is processing the company’s application to drill. Tri-C resources already has the state’s permission. A spokesperson for the company said they plan to fully comply with the city’s regulations.

Waco is considering banning eight-liners, the video slot machines common to Texas convenience stores. Eight-liners take cash and pay out in-store coupons. They’re especially popular in South Texas.

Eight-liner critics say they target low-income communities, and prey on people with gambling addictions. Although gambling is illegal in Texas, they machines in a legal grey area. Prosecuting their operators can be complicated.

Waco’s city council is considering a few different options to constrict eight-liner access. The proposals include restricting hours of operations, or lowering the number of machines allowed in a single store.