The Affordable Care Act is providing new health coverage for some uninsured people, but others are still left behind by the law.
That’s because one key part of the law is optional for states: the decision whether to expand Medicaid to cover poor adults.
And Texas, along with 22 other states, is not expanding the program.
This has angered Democrats, like state Senator Rodney Ellis.
“Now we all know that the Affordable Healthcare Act is not perfect. But you know what? It’s better than all of these uninsured people who are left on the side of the road in Texas.”
Ellis spoke at a rally at St. Joseph Medical Center in downtown Houston.
He pointed out that the decision means Texas leaders are turning down $100 billion in federal funds over the next decade.
“Take this federal money, it is just that simple.”
More than one million Texans would have been eligible for Medicaid if Texas had accepted the money.
Democratic Congressman Al Green says those Texans will continue to get sick and show up in emergency rooms.
“We’re seeing it right now with the H1N1 virus. It knows not whether you have Medicaid, Medicare or private care. It’s a virus that can take anybody. And it’s time for everybody to understand that Dr. King was right, we must stand together as brothers and sisters or we will perish together as fools.”
Swandlyn Lockett attended the rally. She’s 46 and a single mother.
Lockett works as a home health care aide but is uninsured herself.
She says she would have been covered if Texas had expanded Medicaid.
“It’s like our state leaders don’t care about the ones that’s uninsured. And it’s so sad. It’s just sad. Martin Luther King, he was a strong supporter of affordable health care for unfortunate family like myself.”
Governor Rick Perry’s office did not return a call for comment.
He’s said in the past that he doesn’t want to expand Medicaid because it’s a broken system.
Democrats point out that Texas leaders could still change their minds on Medicaid expansion and start drawing down the federal funds, and they called on voters to make it an issue before the next Legislative session.
Swandlyn Lockett (second from left) joins other uninsured Houstonians at a rally at St. Joseph Medical Center in downtown Houston. They called for Texas to expand Medicaid to cover more poor adults.