Austin Council Vote Makes City Latest to Endorse Universal Health Care Coverage
Texas remains the state with the highest rate of uninsured residents
AUSTIN, Texas – The Austin City Council approved a Medicare for All resolution today, making the capital city the second in Texas to endorse extending universal, no-cost health care coverage to all U.S. residents.
With the vote, Austin became the second municipality in Texas and the 118th in the country to approve such a statement.
“Spending $4 trillion on healthcare in 2023 and yet still keeping 43% of Americans uninsured or underinsured is unacceptable. The time for Medicare for All is yesterday. That’s why I am organizing health professionals to support a system that benefits us all, not the wealthy few,” said Yosha Singh, a member of a group of Dell Medical School students affiliated with Students for a National Health Program. The students led the effort to urge the council to consider and adopt the resolution.
Austin council members voted to call on the federal government to implement legislation to provide universal, comprehensive health care coverage at no cost. The resolution also asks the Texas Legislature to pass House Bill 652 and Senate Bill 195 – also known as the Live Well Bills – which would extend Medicaid coverage to low-income Texans.
Today’s vote comes at a critical time. The Texas Legislature, which has resisted expanding Medicaid despite its popularity with voters, is nearing the May 29 end of its regular biennial session. Absent swift action in the coming days, the Live Well Bills are unlikely to receive consideration to become law until the next legislative session, starting in January 2025.
The vote also followed the April expiration of a COVID-era federal policy that allowed Texans to maintain Medicaid coverage during the pandemic. The rate of uninsured people in Texas, already the highest of any state and one of the worst for racial health disparities, is estimated to rise another two percentage points with the end of the policy. Locally, a 2021 City of Austin assessment found that approximately 20% of Travis County residents aged 18-64 lacked healthcare coverage.
“As a nation, we spend trillions of dollars annually to uphold a broken healthcare system that prevents communities without employee benefits or financial security from taking care of themselves and their loved ones,” said Vanessa Fuentes, Austin councilwoman representing District 2. “Right now, the sad reality is that one emergency doctor’s visit can lead to bankruptcy. I support Medicare for all because I believe healthcare is a human right and every Austinite is entitled to essential, life-saving healthcare.”
“Texas stands to gain so much under Medicare for All – and the enthusiasm for this resolution speaks to that,” said Brittany Shannahan, Medicare for All Organizer at Public Citizen. “It’s past time for Texas state and federal lawmakers to become champions for universal healthcare.”
With the resolution, Austin joins Denton as the only Texas cities to endorse Medicare for All. The Denton City Council approved its resolution last May.