FERRIS, Texas – The city of Ferris in Ellis County has approved a plan to bring free basic healthcare to every one of its residents.
The city says it will not only improve the health of its citizens but also the health of its systems.
It’s not government healthcare. People won’t be asked anything about insurance or income.
It’s the first municipality in Texas, and maybe the nation, to figure out a way to help get every resident medical attention at no cost to them.
“It will change healthcare in Ferris,” said City Manager Brooks Williams. “We think it’s a model that other cities and counties can use.”
‘Access For All’ was approved by Ferris City Council Monday night.
“That’s gonna provide basic telemedicine and virtual visits along with a mobile component to every single citizen that resides in our city limits,” Williams said.
The idea of free basic healthcare to all is coming out of the city’s response to COVID-19 when it partnered to stand up a monoclonal antibody treatment center.
“We’ve offered monoclonal antibodies to all of the residents of Ellis County throughout the COVID pandemic,” said MD Health Pathways President Dr. Dirk Perritt. “We treated over 4,000 patients in the county.”
MD Pathways will use full-time and contract doctors, nurses and paramedics to provide basic healthcare to folks who call Ferris home.
“We want to provide that access to healthcare that maybe doesn’t need the level of care at an emergency department,” Dr. Perritt said. “But because nothing else is open, that’s where you seek your care.”
Ferris sits in Ellis County and is one of 60 Texas counties without a public health department.
“We had six suicides in our city over the last year. That’s 50% across the whole county,” Williams said. “We care about our people. We want to provide a mental health component to this and a physical health component. We’ve got 40% of our population that is under or uninsured.”
Williams says free access for all can pay off in other ways.
For example, Ferris schools get $35 a day from the state for every student in class.
“Our ISD averages about 110 kids absent per day,” Williams said. “If we can make a 25% impact on that, that’s $200,000 to our ISD.”
Nearly 20% of 911 calls for Ferris paramedics are non-emergency calls. Those calls can now be handled by the Access For All initiative and, in theory, save the city money.
Ferris will use American Rescue Funds to pay MD Health Pathways to provide this basic health service, which is about $55 a year for each of its roughly 3,500 citizens.
“This is not about doing something where we ask for more money,” Williams said. “This is about using dollars that are already available and reinventing the public health system.”
Williams says there are state and federal grants they are applying for to sustain the Access For All initiative after the first two years that’s being funded with COVID relief money.