Houston-area healthcare providers are piggybacking off the rapid growth of the city's energy industry.
Big energy companies in the area are posting record earnings, profiting from shale and natural gas recovered through hydraulic fracturing. They are offering generous healthcare coverage to their growing employee ranks, and many energy workers are migrating to suburbs including Katy, Sugar Land, Cypress, Spring and The Woodlands, which were previously agricultural towns.
The four largest health systems in Houston—Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, HCA, Houston Methodist Hospital and CHI St. Luke's Health—all have made significant investments in response. Dominant player Memorial Hermann has made multimillion-dollar investments in its hospitals in Katy and Sugar Land. It also bought a 32-acre site this month in Cypress to construct inpatient and outpatient facilities. Those projects come on top of its $650 million expansion and renovation plans for its flag-ship, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
“They want to expand out to those areas because that's where the well-insured people are moving. (They believe) there's going to be increased demand for healthcare in Houston,” said Vivian Ho, a professor in health economics at Rice University.
But while health systems have been staking out turf in Houston's periphery communities, the real estate race may be leaving the uninsured behind. Roughly one in four Texans has no health insurance, the highest rate of any state, and Texas is not expanding Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In Harris County, which includes Houston, nearly 30% of its residents, most of whom are Latino, are uninsured.