Texans Applaud US House Proposal to Close Health Coverage Gap in States that Rejected Medicaid Expansion

AUSTIN — Today, Texas organizations in the Cover Texas Now coalition praised the US House of Representatives for proposing a permanent and comprehensive solution to close the health coverage gap in Texas and other non-Medicaid expansion states. The groups called on the US Senate and the White House to help quickly pass the proposal.

“This is a momentous first step to right a wrong that has left more than a million Texas adults uninsured,” said Anne Dunkelberg, Associate Director of Every Texan. “Closing the coverage gap is a critical step toward dismantling long-standing inequities in our health system.”

The House unveiled the plan last week as part of its $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill. The plan would provide a health coverage option to uninsured adults in Texas and the 11 other states, primarily in the South, where state leaders have rejected Medicaid expansion. In these states, adults who have jobs below the poverty line and do not receive insurance from their jobs are in the “coverage gap.” They earn too little to qualify for financial assistance to purchase insurance on HealthCare.Gov but do not qualify for insurance through Medicaid because their state leaders blocked Medicaid expansion. During the 2021 Texas legislative session, multiple bills were filed to accept Medicaid expansion funding and close the health coverage gap but no hearings were held on the bills.

Texas advocates emphasized that by passing a permanent plan to close the health coverage gap, Congress will take an important step to improve racial equity. People of color account for approximately three of every four Texans in the coverage gap. Additionally, four out of every five Texans in the coverage gap are in working families.

“This is a necessary step to address maternal mortality, mental health, and the wealth gap—issues that have disproportionately devastated communities of color,” says Laura Guerra-Cardus, Deputy Director of Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. “Leaving the South behind means leaving poor people of color behind. We commend the House’s leadership and now call on Senate leadership and the Biden administration to back this proposal. It is a test of their commitment to racial justice.”

The U.S. House’s proposal works in two phases: first, it connects Americans in the coverage gap from non-expansion states to subsidized plans on the HealthCare.Gov marketplace from 2022 to 2024 while the Biden administration develops a Medicaid program just for this population; then, it shifts this population to that program beginning in 2025.

“At a time when this pandemic is showing quite clearly how access to affordable healthcare can mean life or death for many in communities of color, this progress is great to see and absolutely needed,” said Sofia Sepulveda, Senior Healthcare Justice Organizer with the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) “There can be no more delays; Texans want results. We are ready for Medicaid expansion in our state so more working-class residents can receive the healthcare they deserve.”

 The proposal follows calls to close America’s coverage gap from national civil rights groups, advocacy from the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and a joint letter to Congressional leadership endorsed by nearly 200 organizations across Texas and the 11 other states that have not expanded Medicaid.

“This is a big step towards tackling racial disparities and helping moms have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies,” said Adriana Kohler, Policy Director for Texans Care for Children. “We encourage the House and Senate to quickly and permanently close the health coverage gap in Texas and the 11 other states that turned down Medicaid expansion.”

The proposal has not been voted on yet by the House or Senate.

This press release was originally published by Cover Texas Now

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