From the Texas Tribune
- by Thanh Tan
After completing his family medicine residency in 1985, Dr. Javier Saenz opened a practice in the Rio Grande Valley town of La Joya. Born 20 miles away in Rio Grande City and raised by a father who worked as a grocery clerk and a mother who worked on a farm, Saenz wanted to “come home” and serve the valley, an impoverished region that is medically underserved.
Today, Saenz Medical Center treats up to 150 patients per day. Saenz is the volunteer physician for the local high schools and their football teams. A middle school is named after him.
Despite his success, Saenz, 56, said he feels nothing like a hero these days. He said his practice is hanging by a thread.
His troubles reflect a statewide problem for doctors who treat a disproportionately high number of the reported 320,000 low-income Texans who are fully and dually eligible for Medicare, the federal insurer of the elderly, and Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care program for indigent children, the disabled and the very poor. On Jan. 1, the state reduced its share of co-payments for such patients. Physicians who treat them are seeing revenue disruptions. Many, like Saenz, are not sure they can stay in business.
The Legislature last year directed the state’sHealth and Human Services Commission to cut the Medicaid budget by $3 billion over two years, including savings of $475 million for this single change.