Political Hostages in Texas

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ImageFor a brief moment on June 28, 2012, it seemed the future of American health care was decided— the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. What many Americans likely didn’t realize, though, is that the decisions  are far from over.

Though the law introduces many new healthcare concepts to the American system, these new features work within and build upon the pre-exisiting delivery system constructs. A clear example of this is the so-called “Medicaid expansion.” As Medicaid is a state-federal partnership, States are given flexibility in many of the features of their programs. Under the ACA, States have been offered a chance to expand their Medicaid populations through an expansion of Medicaid eligibility, at no additional cost to the States– as long as the State chooses to do so. Many are not choosing to expand their Medicaid populations– foremost among them, Texas.

The choice of the Texas state government, led by Texas Governor Rick Perry, is a choice couched in politics, with huge consequences for Texans. If the State were to expand its Medicaid population, 1.8 million currently uninsured people would be newly enrolled. Insurance for the uninsured means better health– not just for individuals, but for the State at large. As insurance grants an individual access to health care, it more importantly is the gateway to preventive health care– known to reduce system-wide costs. Further, when these newly insured people access their healthcare, their costs are mostly covered by insurance– meaning hospitals aren’t stuck with as much uncompensated care, and the taxpayers likewise aren’t faced with footing the hospital’s bill.

When patient advocates, business, and hospitals are united in opinion, one is compelled to scrutinize that which they support– the expansion of Medicaid in all States, including Texas. To not expand Medicaid is to hold the health of a State hostage to the State leadership’s politics. It’s time for citizens to call on our leaders to stop playing political games with our health, and our lives.

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One Response to “Political Hostages in Texas”

  1. chenjo Says:

    As a physician practicing in Texas serving both the pediatric and adult populations, having more patients with medicaid coverage in this state would certainly help hospitals with their burden of uncompensated care. Where I practice, 80% of our pediatric patients are medicaid. However, also having been raised in this very conservative state, it does not surprise me that Governor Perry has not chosen to expand medicaid as the majority consensus here is that less government is better. Plus even if the federal government would fund 90% of the costs, Texas would need to fund the other 10% and Texans in general do not want to pay to do that, especially if it doesn’t directly benefit them in some way or it means raising taxes.

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