Former Governor Rick Perry declared he would not accept federally expanded Medicaid, made possible by Obamacare, i.e. the Affordable Care Act, under any circumstances. He said to do such would be a fool's errand. But now, after a year of Obamacare the data shows it is Rick Perry and the state of Texas that are the biggest fools of them all.
But not everyone in this vast state is as big an ideological fool as our former Governor and his tea party colleagues. As it turns out, many of us, including politicians, medical doctors and other professionals in the medical fields know Texas is in dire need of federally expanded Medicaid. Texas has the highest number of uninsured residents. Harris (Houston) County Judge Ed Emmett had previously suggested that the state take it but call it something else, just as Kentucky did.
Houston and Harris County property taxpayers have an enormous stake in the successful creation of such a program. Each year more than $500 million in county property taxes goes to fund health care expenses. This burden is dumped on local taxpayers by the refusal of the state to create a fair and equitable system.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who is on the very front lines in this battle, supports the expansion of Medicaid, noting that “it doesn’t make any sense for the state not to take federal dollars.” Emmett is a mainstream Republican whose views should be heeded in Austin.
Well, Rick Perry and right wing Republicans did not heed Judge Emmett's advice. Ideology always trumps logic and data with this crew. If people die early because they can't afford health insurance it's their fault for being too lazy or for cavorting with the devil.
Governor elect Greg Abbott recently traveled to Houston to discuss this issue with area politicians. Not only is Houston the largest city in the state, it is also home to the Texas Medical Center, an enormous complex of hospitals, medical schools and other academic institutions. Just about every person who works within this Center has a deep understanding of the need for federally expanded Medicaid whether one is a doctor, nurse, department administrator budget director or technician.
While I feel strongly that the state should have accepted federally expanded Medicaid since day 1, I am a little curious as to how the proponents will convince Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the tea party ideologues in Austin to consider it. They think of Medicaid as an entailment. A broken entitlement at that.
To be sure, the odds of any form of expansion start out as slim in a Legislature that is expected to be one of the most conservative in recent memory. The Senate, in particular, is expected to pursue an agenda supported by the tea party under the leadership of Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick.
But not everyone is paying attention to Dan Patrick and his tea party colleagues. Facts are facts. Need is need. The bottom line is Texas is in dire need of expanding Medicaid.
The Code Red Task Force conducted a study and reported its findings at a meeting at Rice University's Hobby Center for the Study of Texas.
As more Republican-led states accept Medicaid expansion or consider expanding the program to extend health coverage to the low-income uninsured, a report released Wednesday recommends Texas do the same.
The report by the Code Red Task Force on Access to Health Care in Texas says doing so would not only cover an estimated 1 million residents but also prevent billions of dollars in federal taxes paid by Texans from going to other states to fund their programs.
The Code Red Task Force, made up of health care providers, researchers, business leaders and advisers from across the state, also proposes development of more organized local and regional health care and creation of more medical residency programs to expand the state's health care workforce to improve patient care and keep people healthier. The group will discuss its findings Wednesday at Rice University's Baker Institute.
Are Dan Patrick and his tea party colleagues willing to squander Texas taxpayer dollars by sending them to other states? Maybe if someone convinces Patrick that Obamacare is actually Jesus Care would he go for it? I mean since the Lt. Governor elect believes he is office because Jesus sent him there, maybe Jesus would also expect for Patrick to take care of the sick and poor in the state he helps to govern?
Well, this is hardly my area of expertise so I'll leave that argument to the religious clergy.
Moving along to the report's important findings.
Dr. Kenneth Shine, a task force senior adviser and special adviser to the University of Texas System's chancellor, said failure to expand Medicaid will cost Texans an estimated $32 billion in federal taxes over 10 years.
"It's going to other states to expand their coverage," he said, adding that the state stands to lose billions more if other federal programs for funding health care aren't renewed.
Shine said the state's coverage gap "is real. There are 1 million or more people who don't make enough to be eligible for coverage. This needs to be addressed."
Are Dan Patrick and his tea party colleagues willing to let taxpayers continue to pay higher property taxes in order to cover uninsured residents who seek care from the ERs? After all, Dan Patrick said he is going to give us all tax cuts. How is he going to do that?
By dropping funding for the Pubic Integrity Unit
as he threatened?
The task force report proposes a coverage solution similar to those offered by other states and other Texas organizations. Dubbed the Texas Prescription, the plan would include insurance premium subsidies, require participant contributions and encourage healthy behaviors, while discouraging unnecessary emergency room visits.
Passage of such a plan could bring in an estimated $66 billion in federal funding over 10 years, as well as about $35 billion in "secondary benefits," such as new jobs and health care savings as a result of more people gaining coverage, according to the report.
Shine said the health-care industry, government officials and business organizations, including chambers of commerce, "are in favor of Texas trying to do something. We continue to be the state with the highest rate of uninsured."
Will Dan Patrick turn his back on potential new jobs in the state? Now that oil prices are plunging in an oil producing/refining state, suddenly some lawmakers are beginning to understand that the state's revenue stream is likely going to shrink.
Job lay-offs are on the horizon. Now should be the time in which some common sense, if nothing else, can prevail among ideologues.
The problem with the report, however, is its architects do not have the power to implement it. Only the Texas Legislature can do that. Nor will the group actively lobby for expanded Medicaid.
Other Republican Governors finally saw the light and stopped behaving as ideological fools and Cruella des Villes.
Twenty-seven states have accepted some form of Medicaid expansion, including eight with Republican governors.
Well, the hope is that Governor elect Abbott will listen to all stakeholders. Let's see if he will carry on with Rick Perry's foolishness and cruelty.
As of right now Greg Abbott seems to be more involved in a war with cities that have the nerve to pass ordinances that protect their environments. He wants to end bans on fracking, plastic bags and tree cutting. The Governor said these ordinances are making the state too "Californianized." In our dreams. The fact of the matter is Rick Perry has essentially Kochified the state. Greg Abbott will continue on this very path.
Perhaps he can rename federally expanded Medicaid Koch Care. That just might fly.