Axios Houston

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❤️ Happy Valentine's Day.

  • We love you.

🌤️ Today's weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 69.

🐥 Sounds like: "Red Wine Supernova" by Chappell Roan.

⛪️ Situational awareness: It's also Ash Wednesday, marking the start of Lent, which means seafood spots could be extra busy today.

Today's newsletter is 946 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: 2 million Texans dropped from Medicaid

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Data: 2018-2022 American Community Survey, Texas Health and Human Services Commission; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

More than 2 million people have been removed from Texas' Medicaid program since federal pandemic-era coverage protections were lifted last April, new state data shows.

State of play: That's the most people of any state — and nearly equivalent to Houston's population of 2.3 million residents — losing coverage in less than a year, Axios Vitals' Maya Goldman reports.

  • In Houston, more than 480,000 residents have been disenrolled.

Why it matters: Many people may have unnecessarily lost their health insurance.

  • The majority of those people were disenrolled because of procedural issues like failing to return paperwork.

The big picture: More than 16.4 million people have lost Medicaid coverage nationwide since eligibility checks, which were put on hold during the pandemic, resumed last spring, according to health policy research nonprofit KFF.

Reality check: The latest figures indicate that Texas Medicaid is now roughly back to pre-pandemic enrollment levels.

  • However, the state hasn't completed reviewing eligibility for every enrollee, so more people are likely to lose coverage.

What they're saying: Texas is "taking all possible actions to provide benefits to eligible Texans as quickly as possible" and working closely with the federal government to ensure "that the redetermination process operates as smoothly as possible," Thomas Vazquez, a spokesperson for the Texas health department, told Axios in an email.

What's next

2. Why you need to watch TLC's "sMothered"

Hayfa Muhamad Diab, who goes by Eva, and Sunnie Diab. Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery

👋 Jay here! Let me bring you in on my latest guilty obsession and its Houston connection: Season 5 of TLC's "sMothered" series, which follows mother-daughter duos with "extreme bonds."

Why it matters: This season features Houston spa owner Sunnie Diab and her mother/spa co-owner Hayfa Muhamad Diab, who goes by Eva.

Catch up fast: Driving a wedge in their relationship this season is Scott Schafer, Sunnie's boyfriend, who thinks Eva is too overbearing.

  • Throughout the season, Eva is insistent on Scott proposing to Sunnie and attempts to stop them from moving in together or having sex until they're married.

By the tail end of the series, Scott and Sunnie are moving in together in the same apartment building where Eva lives.

Yes, but: Sunnie didn't tell Eva that she and Scott were moving in together and also didn't tell Scott that Eva was living in the same building.

The intrigue: Before the scene at Trash Panda, Scott says, "Welcome to the best bar in town. This is the only place in town where you can have a drink and possibly see a UFO in the same city."

  • When asked, a Trash Panda representative couldn't say why Scott said the spot is best for seeing aliens or UFOs.
  • "I think he was making an offhand joke about aliens," the representative said. "Best bar in Houston, though, is accurate."

The latest: We don't want to spoil the whole thing, but let's just say there weren't any UFO sightings in the finale.

How to watch: The season finale aired last night. The series is available on Max.

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3. 🛸 UFOs in Houston? Not so fast, Scott

👽 Reported UFO sightings per 100k residents
Data: National UFO Reporting Center, U.S. Census; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

While Scott may not have spotted any UFOs in Houston, he's not alone.

Driving the news: The Houston metro area had 15 UFO sightings per 100,000 residents between 2000 and 2023, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick, Erin Davis and Alice Feng report from National UFO Reporting Center data.

  • That's compared to the national average of 34.3 sightings per 100,000 residents.
  • By comparison, Lincoln County, Nevada — home to Area 51 — had the most of any U.S. county, with 820.9 per 100,000 residents.

The intrigue: Houston ranked last among major U.S. metros for the rate of sightings.

  • Houstonians reported just 1,103 instances of UFO sightings in that time frame.

The intrigue: UFO reports spiked when SpaceX's Starlink satellites — which can look like a train streaking across the sky — were first launched in 2019 and 2020, says Christian Stepien, the National UFO Reporting Center's chief technology officer.

Yes, but: That's less the case now, he says, as more people learn what Starlink looks like.

💭 Jay's thought bubble: I didn't know it at the time, but I once witnessed a Starlink launch and indeed was dazed and confused at the sight.

The bottom line: Despite rising public acceptance of UFO chatter, there's still no proof that we're being visited by extraterrestrials.

  • But the truth, as they say, is out there.

4. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

🪩 After his Super Bowl performance, Usher announced a stop in Houston for his upcoming tour. He'll perform Nov. 27 at the Toyota Center. (Houston Public Media)

🍔 BunSlut, a Houston-based food truck company, is working to open its first brick-and-mortar location near the Texas Medical Center and a takeout-only restaurant near Montrose. (Houston Business Journal)

🗣️ U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans, are publicly feuding over a variety of issues. (Axios)

5. 💕 H-E-B happenstance

The Landas. Photo: Madalyn Mendoza/Axios

If a new rom-com were set in Texas, Eddie and Debbie Landa's meet-cute in the aisles of H-E-B could serve as the perfect inspiration.

Context: The couple met 41 years ago at the Deco District H-E-B. They've been inseparable ever since and now have three daughters and four grandkids.

Flashback: On Jan. 9, 1983, Eddie was making a quick H-E-B run for some trash bags so he could rake leaves before the Dallas Cowboys game.

  • That's when he spotted Debbie in the parking lot, riding shotgun in her mom's car.

The paths of the eventual soulmates repeatedly crossed as they navigated the store. When Debbie returned to the car, she found a note on the windshield.

  • "I'd like to meet girl in white top and jeans. Very pretty," Eddie wrote, leaving his number.
Photo of a note on the left and a vintage photo on the right.
The young couple with the note that made it all happen. Photo: Madalyn Mendoza/Axios

The Landas will celebrate 39 years of marriage in March.

What they're saying: "If you want to meet a cute guy, go at 7pm in the frozen food aisle, because there are single guys looking for something to eat. Sashay along and bat an eye or two," Debbie jokes.

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Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Khalid Adad and Carolyn DiPaol for copy editing this newsletter.

📝 Shafaq is reading about how Drake, 50 Cent and Chris Brown are all registered to vote at the same Katy house, in what appears to be a prank.

🎶 Jay is excited for Chappell Roan's upcoming NPR Tiny Desk Concert.