Local Lawmakers Speak Out On Perry's Health Care Stance
By ADAM RUSSELL
Local Republican lawmakers applauded Gov. Rick Perry's announcement that Texas would not participate in implementation of the new federal health care law, eve
• as Democrats say the stance hurts 6 million uninsured Texans.
In a Monday release, Perry made it clear he will continue to fight alongside conservatives against the federal law.
"If anyone was in doubt, we in Texas have no intention to implement so-called state exchanges or
to expand Medicaid under Obamacare," Perry said in a release. "I will not be party to socializing health care and bankrupting my state in direct contradiction to our Constitution and our founding principles of limited government."
Perry said participation in the insurance exchanges gives too much power to Washington and expansion of Medicaid puts added financial strain on an already unsustainable program.
Supporters of the health care law say the governor's stance means leaving federal tax dollars paid by Texans on the table for a state where one-in-four residents is uninsured, the worst rate in the nation.
From 2014-2019, coverage expansions are estimated to bring $119 billion in new federal money to the state, according to the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities, while Texas must put up about $6 billion from the state budget for its share of the Medicaid expansion.
Medicaid costs for the state are expected to increase $27 billion over the next decade.
Right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation applauded the governor's stance.
"If the federal government wants to promote access to health care for low-income Texans, it should block-grant Medicaid to the state, so that we can develop a program that meets Texas's needs -- not D.C.'s aspirations," said former state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, now a health care policy director for the foundation. "If the federal government wants to promote access to health insurance for all Texans, it should step back and allow an individual market in health insurance to develop.
Former Rep. Wohlgemuth called Medicaid a failed system that has reduced choice for recipients. She said the exchange subordinates decisions to state and federal governments rather than allowing individuals to seek health care within the free market.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said state leaders are misguided by believing blocking access to health care will lead residents to prosperity.
"While the leadership in Texas continues to stick its head in the sand, six million people -- nearly a quarter of our population -- struggle on without health insurance," she said in a release.
Sen. Van de Putte said state leaders have missed the opportunity to craft an insurance exchange. By refusing, legislators have deferred decisions that will impact Texans to the federal government, she said.
State Rep.-elect Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, who will replace Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, Jan. 1, said state lawmakers should stand behind the Supreme Court's decision that determined the federal government could not force states to expand Medicaid coverage.
"The bottom line is that it is cost-prohibitive for Texas to expand the current program," he said. "Expanding a failed government health care program is not a solution."
State Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, who serves on the House Human Services Committee, said he is fully supportive of the governor's stance. East Texans are not in favor of the individual mandate and the prospect of paying penalties for not purchasing health insurance. He said he will continue to support Texas' and other states' efforts to counteract the health care law.
State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, said he is inclined to side with Perry that the law probably won't make sense for Texans, but added that he prefers the House and Senate health committees assess the costs and benefits before final judgment.
"We need to be clear on the numbers and there aren't any clear-cut answers right now," he said. "Medicaid costs are exploding right now and costing us billions anyway and we need to crunch the numbers."
State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, who serves on the Health and Human Services Committee, said the preliminary numbers showing the $27 billion additional cost to the state is enough to oppose participation.
Nichols also said there is no flexibility for states within the insurance exchange provision and that expanding Medicaid ultimately means more taxes for Texans.
"I see no reason to participate," he said. "We're trying to kill it so why help it."
Smith County Democratic Party chairman David Henderson said GOP lawmaker's stances show their true colors -- that they don't care about the poor and uninsured and solutions to poor economic policies requiring those people seek health care at emergency rooms across the state.
"They can all afford to pay for insurance or are on the state rolls," he said. "It's a travesty. It's inhumane and it's a death sentence for a lot of people."