The recent Supreme Court ruling allows states to choose whether to expand Medicaid, the government insurance for the very poorest Americans.
The optional expansion would open Medicaid to people with incomes slightly higher than the poverty level.
Governor Perry says he won’t support that in Texas:
“It’s important to recognize that Medicaid is a broken system, and you can’t fix a broken system by pouring millions of more people into it. Already the cost of Medicaid is consuming more and more of the state budget.”
Public health advocates struck back, pointing out that the federal government is going to pay almost all the costs of allowing more Texans into Medicaid.
Anne Dunkelberg is with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank in Austin.
“It concerns us deeply that this position is being taken and no solutions are being put forward to do anything about the 6.2 million uninsured Texans. Or to speak to the fact that we would be leaving $76 billion dollars in federal funds on the table, funds that will go to other states that do exercise the Medicaid expansion.”
State representative Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, says Perry is being hypocritical since he accepts federal funds all the time, for instance, stimulus funds and disaster funds.
Coleman says refusing to expand the program is simply mean-spirited:
“What is it, is it funny to withhold care from people through a regular doctor? Is this something that they get joy out of, or the governor gets joy out of? I hope not.”
Perry also said he doesn’t want the state to set up a health exchange, a place for the uninsured to shop for policies online.
But as Dunkelberg points out, that creates a different political problem for the governor.
“As the governor knows, there will be a federally operated exchange in every state that doesn’t create its own one. And the exchange stands to potentially cover more uninsured Texans than the Medicaid expansion does through private insurance, and with no state dollars required. And the exchanges were the most popular reforms that the public supports so strongly in every poll, even Republicans.”
Although the governor is clearly against these two options, the Legislature still needs to decide when it meets in January.
Dunkelberg says a public outcry could help override a Perry veto, or even change his mind.
From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.