Back in January, I noted that the most sweeping Medicaid issue of the 2013 session—with over a million uninsured Texans, billions of federal dollars for our economy, and hundreds of thousands of new jobs at stake—would be Texas’ opportunity to cover all citizen adults up to just above the poverty line in Medicaid, with a better than $9 federal match for every $1 Texas spends. I also predicted then that regardless of the outcome, every legislator would learn about this issue and what it means for the communities they represent.
I am not sure if we can really claim to have reached all legislators, but we certainly had a robust discussion that surely touched most of them, including marches, rallies, and public hearings. Still, the most conservative elected officials prevailed over the moderates and prevented the Legislature from moving forward even with a conservative, market-based alternative offered by Rep. John Zerwas.
As a result, unless the Governor takes action soon, in January 2014 Texas adults above the poverty line will get taxpayer-funded sliding-scale help with health insurance, but Texans below poverty will qualify for nothing. Next door in New Mexico and Arkansas, though, working poor adults will gain the coverage that Texans are helping to pay for.
So the learning curve continues! The Texas Association of Business and 22 chambers of commerce have all endorsed finding a “Texas Solution” to cover the poor and draw the estimated average $6 billion in annual new federal funds. And, as more folks hear that national tax experts estimate Texas employers will be paying at least $300 million every year in tax penalties for uninsured workers, as a direct result of Texas rejecting coverage for the working poor, we hope more local and state officials will see the light.
As we move forward after session and continue working to get more Texans health coverage, you can send a letter to the Governor, and email a copy to the Texas Well and Healthy campaign, calling for him to do the smart thing for Texas and the fair thing for the working poor. It would be a great way to start the next phase of our campaign to make sure health reform is not denied to the very Texans who need it most.