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Affordable Care Act

Houston Congressman Green Backs More Federal Money For NIH And FDA

With Medicaid expansion stalled in Texas, Green looks to 21st Century Cures Act



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U.S. Representative Gene Green, D-Texas. Photo taken in a News 88.7 studio during a 2012 interview.  


The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 25 in King v. Burwell solidified the status of the Affordable Care Act. But little will change for the uninsured in Texas without a Medicaid expansion, says Rep. Gene Green, a Democrat representing east and north Houston. He’s now  focusing his efforts on a new bill to expand funding for medical research.

Green is the highest ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Health. He said the recent Court ruling sends an important political signal about the health reform law.

“The Supreme Court is not going to abolish the Affordable Care Act. It was passed by the Congress. It’s been the law since 2010 and it’s helping,” Green said. “In our district we’ve identified about 25,000 people who have insurance now who worked and didn’t have it before.”

Nevertheless, Texas remains the number one state for uninsured residents, with 6 million uninsured residents, almost a quarter of the state population.  

Green said an obvious solution is for Texas state leaders to expand Medicaid to more poor adults. That’s an optional part of the health law, and Texas would only have to pay 10 percent of the costs. Green admitted that a Medicaid expansion remains unpopular among Texas Republicans and doesn’t expect any movement on it soon.

“The politics of it in a Republican primary is just not conducive,” he said. “I don’t know what we could do to encourage now Governor Abbott any more than we could encourage Governor Perry. If you’re not convinced that millions of (uninsured) Texas are showing up in our emergency rooms, I don’t know what else you can do.”

Green pointed to one bright spot in healthcare legislation, the 21st Century Cures Act.

It has bipartisan support and recently passed a committee vote in the House.

The bill increases funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

It also proposes adding flexibility to the approval process for new drugs and medical devices, though critics worry that might compromise patient safety. Patient advocates argue the changes are needed so patients can get faster access to new treatments.

Green added that the bill will also make it easier for clinical researchers to share data across institutions.

“Our funding for research is in siloes,” he said. “Even though you may be at MD Anderson and somebody may be at the University of Texas medical school or at Baylor they may not be talking to each other.”

The bill would increase funding for the NIH by $8.75 billion over five years. The FDA would get a boost of $550 million.