Buses were filled with over 200 Houston residents, a fraction of the 30 percent of the city’s population without health insurance.
Tameka Morris took time off her jobs to board one of the buses for the trip to Austin.
“I’m going as a person that’s uninsured, to let the people know that I’m asking for a handout. I work two jobs to pay for my medical health and I still don’t get it. So between trying to pay bills or go to the doctor, I would pay my bills.”
Hernandez: “Are you amazed that the governor is not helping people that are uninsured?”
Morris: “Oh yeah definitely. Because I’m a working class citizen, yeah of course. I mean, at time when I got my cancer diagnosis, I continued to work and do chemotherapy when I should have been eligible.”
Morris’ plight is typical of many Texans who make enough to make ends meet, but work at jobs that don’t offer health insurance coverage, making most of them eligible for government programs like Medicaid.
Durrel Douglas is with the Texas Organizing Project, a grassroots advocacy group. Although the U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, Douglas says Governor Rick Perry was adamant that Texas would not expand Medicaid or establish a health insurance exchange via the federal government:
“One in four Texans doesn’t have health insurance. Here in Harris County, it’s even worse. One in three don’t have health insurance, and Texas is dead last when it comes to health insurance. Yet our governor is turning away options that could essentially help those millions of Texans that don’t have access to care — just for political reasons. He’s allowing his grudge with Obamacare essentially, to drive away help for millions of Texans. I mean, no self-respecting governor would want to know that his state is last in the nation when it comes to anything, let alone — let alone health care.”
Calls for a comment from the governor’s office were not returned, but earlier this year it sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, rejecting the more than one hundred million dollars in federal funds over the next several years and to creating a comprehensive online insurance marketplace for consumers.
A study commissioned by Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, concluded that if Texas implemented the ACA, the state’s uninsured rate could decrease by at least half by the year 2014.