In November, Harris County voters will have to decide whether to fund a $2.5 billion expansion of the Harris Health System over the next 10 years in a move that could increase health care access for more than 1 million uninsured residents.

If approved, the improvements are projected to cost the owner of a $300,000 property $6 more per month in taxes.

The bond funding would allow the system to replace and renovate Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital; expand the capacity of Ben Taub Hospital; and create new community clinics in precincts 2, 3 and 4.

Harris Health President and CEO Dr. Esmaeil Porsa said the hospitals have failing infrastructure and the county population is rapidly growing.

The system is mandated by law to provide health care services to the uninsured and underinsured populations, but also serves the entire county.

By the numbers

Current countywide Harris Health health care operations include:
  • The Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital: 215 acute-care beds
  • Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital: 402 acute-care beds
  • 17 community health centers
  • 8 homeless shelter clinics
  • 4 multispecialty clinics
  • 3 same-day clinics
  • Dental center
  • Mobile health units
In one year, HHS serves:
  • 854,313 clinic visits
  • 147,496 emergency room visits
  • 193,727 telehealth clinic visits
A closer look

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, according to the 2021 American Community Survey. In Houston, 1 in 4 people are without health insurance.

Harris County’s population also continues to grow, making the county’s health system insufficient in meeting current needs and future demands, HHS officials said. Both hospitals are operating at over 90%-100% daily occupancy.

Research by public health experts has found that low-income families face consequences when they are unable to access health care, including:
  • Uninsured patients coming in for late-stage diseases, including cancer
  • Higher mortality rates
  • Poor diabetes control
  • Avoidable hospitalization
When it comes to need, the county’s poverty rate is higher than the national average at 16.4% for all age groups, compared to 12.8% nationwide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

What they're saying

“We need this urgently," said Paul Klotman, President of Baylor College of Medicine. "The facilities are inadequate, whether we’re talking about bed numbers, operating rooms, recovery space, Level I trauma capacity. We’re behind. This bond election is an investment in the future for Harris County and the city of Houston.”

What's next

Porsa emphasized at an Aug. 18 Harris County Commissioners Court meeting that, if the bond gets approved, each project has various phases that are expected to be carried out over several years.

Planning for the LBJ hospital replacement dates back several years with the understanding that it would be inevitable, even without a bond, Porsa said. Construction at the new LBJ Hospital will break ground in April or May of 2024.

The estimated timeline is as follows:
  • 2024-2035: Construction for LBJ Hospital campus
  • 2024-2030: Renovations for Ben Taub Hospital campus
  • 2025-2033: Construction for new clinics and health centers