Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Remarks of Gov. Rick Perry at Opening of Regional Health Center

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Friday, June 28, 2002  •  Speech

(NOTE: Gov. Perry frequently deviates from prepared text.)

Thank you Dr. Cigarroa.  Mayor de la Garza, Senator Lucio, Senator-elect Hinojosa, distinguished members of the Texas House, Regent Krier, Dr. Vela, citizens of the Rio Grande Valley, my fellow Texans…this is not only an historic day for the Rio Grande Valley, but the entire state of Texas.

On this day, we can look into the future and know that the idea of a healthier, more vibrant Rio Grande Valley is no longer just a dream, but a great possibility.

The opening of the Regional Academic Health Center means the citizens of the Rio Grande Valley will have access to more qualified medical professionals, and the quality health care they need and deserve.

This institution will allow bright minds from the Valley to return to the Valley to finish their medical education, and practice medicine at home, where the need is so great.

Not only is it critical that Valley residents be able to receive medical training at home, but we must ensure an economic climate that is conducive to the practice of medicine.

That’s why today I am proud to announce a little more good news.  Today the Texas Department of Insurance has approved a new stopgap malpractice coverage option to keep medical professionals from abandoning the practice of medicine. 

This new malpractice coverage, called a claims-made policy, has been authorized through the Joint Underwriter’s Authority.

All over the state of Texas, and especially in the Rio Grande Valley, medical professionals are either losing their coverage entirely, or experiencing rate shock.

Abusive trial lawyer practices are sending doctors out of the profession, jeopardizing patient care in a region that already has a shortage of qualified medical professionals.

Doctors practice medicine to make a difference…not to appear regularly in court.  And until we convene the next legislative session and reform our malpractice laws, this new stopgap measure will provide relief for doctors trying to stay in business.

Over the last four years, we have invested greatly in the health of our 21 million citizens.  Last session we increased health care spending by close to $6 billion.  That included more than $900 million in new funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has now enrolled more than 500,000 children.

Texas is now drawing down more federal health care dollars without adding needless bureaucracy.  We have focused on new ways to deliver care to under-served areas through telemedicine, and passed a law to address the nursing shortage in our state.

My plans for the future include greater options for seniors to purchase prescription drugs, doubling the number of Federally Qualified Health Centers like Su Clinica that serve a large portion of our uninsured population, and making it more affordable for small businesses to offer health insurance.

In addition to these initiatives, we recently identified more than $1 million that will fund breast and cervical cancer treatment for low-income women.  Cancer is a tough enough foe even when you have access to the best care.  Low-income women should not have to cut corners in the fight for their lives.

Today we celebrate much more than the opening of a new building. This is about Texans being able to live longer, healthier lives.  This is about providing the health care needed for the indigent and the impoverished. 

This is about the availability of trained medical professionals and leading medical research.  And this is about turning the tide on ailments like diabetes and tuberculosis along the border of Texas.

I am proud to be here today, and to be in the presence of such dedicated leaders in the medical and academic professions.  I salute the University of Texas, and the U.T. Health Science Center for your vision.  I salute your local elected officials who have invested so much in making this dream a reality.  And I salute the first class of young men and women who will continue their education at this new institution, and who have dedicated their lives to helping their neighbors in need.  Thank you, and God bless you.

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