In search of the “Texas Solution” to Medicaid

Among some of conservatives’ greatest hopes for a Mitt Romney presidential victory in 2012 was the potential of repealing or delaying the implementation of the heart of the Affordable Car Act, also known as ObamaCare.

David Delgado | The Daily Cougar

David Delgado | The Daily Cougar

Among the number of changes coming this year is the expansion of Medicaid. However, Gov. Rick Perry has never been a supporter of ObamaCare and has opposed it at every step and turn.

“I will not be party to socializing health care and bankrupting my state in direct contradiction to our Constitution and our founding principles of limited government,” Perry said in a July 9 statement.

While other Republican governors, like Florida’s Rick Scott and Arizona’s Jan Brewer, have agreed to expand Medicaid, the unwillingness of Perry is irresponsible, and it will leave countless numbers of lower and lower-middle class Texans without healthcare.

The state’s former chief budget estimator, Billy Hamilton, said if Texas were to spend $15 billion the state would garner $100 billion in federal money, and an expansion of Medicaid would halve the state with the highest uninsured rate, 24 percent. It is a win-win for both the state and its people. Obamacare is here to stay. Instead of fighting a losing battle, Perry needs to get on the bandwagon.

Friday, hundreds turned out in Austin to rally in support of Medicaid expansion. It came on the heels of lawmakers trying to find a solution that would work best for Texas and the effort has been dubbed the “Texas Solution.”

Republicans in Austin already voted down a resolution that would’ve met the requirements laid out in the Affordable Care Act. Under the law, once the state decides to expand Medicaid, the federal government would fund the expansion and let the state take over the costs.

While conservative and moderate lawmakers might be against ObamaCare, many like Scott are willing to comply if the federal government pays for it all.

According to the Texas Tribune, lawmakers in Austin are planning to reform Medicaid with options that call for poor Texans to pay something in to the system — such as co-payments or subsidized private insurance — without having to expand Medicaid directly and still taking block grants from the federal government, something the Obama administration has been reluctant to approve.

Lucy Nashed, a spokesperson for the governor, said in an email to the media that Perry just wants flexibility.

“What he is interested in, and for years has called for, is more flexibility from the federal government so we can tailor the way we deliver health care to address our specific challenges,” she said.

On Feb. 20, Nashed said the governor’s position has not changed.

“It would be irresponsible to add more Texans and dump more taxpayer dollars into an unsustainable system that is broken and already consumes a quarter of our budget,” she said.

Perry has to stop the political posturing and do what is best for Texas, and that includes ensuring everyone has access to health care.

Saturday, Rice University demographers Michael Cline and Steve Murdock told statesman.com they predict that without Medicaid expansion, the number of uninsured Texans will drop from 6.1 million to 4.5 million.

Should the state choose to expand Medicaid, that number could drop to 3 million. Latinos are one of the groups that would benefit the most from the expansion, and opposing the expansion might mean the state Republicans would alienate Latino voters once again, as well as others who would benefit from Medicaid.

The Texas Medical Association said only 31 percent of Texas doctors accept all new Medicaid patients; that should be taken with a grain of salt since, as politifact.com reports, the number came from a poll with a sample size of four percent.

The number is down from 42 percent in 2010, and according to a report released by the TMA, it is because of the reduction or elimination of payments for co-insurance and deductibles to the eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. If the poll is taken on face value, that’s a disturbing sign of things to come without Medicaid expansion.

The only sensible plan out there is being put forth by state Sen. Tom Williams. The Tribune reports that his proposal would include co-payments and deductibles for Medicaid patients, reimbursement rates that encourage good patient outcomes, and it would allow the state to develop tailored benefit packages for Medicaid recipients’ different health needs.

Increasing access to the health care benefits everyone and is a good thing for Texas. As more states decide to expand Medicaid, Texas and its governor continue to be on the wrong side of history.

Alex Caballero is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected].

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