As of Monday, Rick Perry wouldn’t like gazillions of dollars in federal funding to alleviate the fact that 25% of Texans–the highest percentage of people in any state–are without health insurance. In a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (which you can read here), Perry rejected two major tenets of health care reform: the expansion of Medicaid and state health insurance exchanges. Perry’s stance is straight-up ignorant at best and downright malevolent at worst.
Hoping to find out that there was some reasonable thought behind Perry’s letter–beyond conservative political posturing for the benefit of an increasingly batshit right-wing base–I interviewed health policy experts for this RH Reality Check piece. Guess what I didn’t find.
An excerpt with quotes from Elena Marks at Rice University:
“I’m sorry that we Texans who know the Texas population and health care needs and provider community the best will not be the ones designing the exchange and all the things that go with it,” said Marks. As for the Medicaid expansion, she said it’s simply good public policy to accept the federal money — not least because of the 3.25 multiplier effect, which means that every dollar spent on Medicaid and CHIP “generates 3.25 times that amount in economic activity.”
“Economically, as a matter of providing health care from a public health perspective, the Medicaid expansion makes complete sense,” said Marks. It covers low-income people who can’t afford insurance in the exchanges, for whom “the chance of being able to buy insurance under any kind of market condition is pretty much non-existent.”
Do you put these people on Medicaid? Or, says Marks, “do you leave them uninsured?”
About 1.7 million more Texans could be eligible for Medicaid under the PPACA, which allows people with an income of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line to participate. In Texas, people who would otherwise have gotten care at emergency rooms or county hospitals would be covered, resulting in an overall savings for the state. “The cost of their care doesn’t get pushed away,” said Marks, “It just gets shifted.”
True fact: the better access Texans have to affordable health insurance and Medicaid, the less we all pay:
As fewer doctors take on new Medicaid patients, the number of uninsured people in Texas continues to rise — which means the cost of health insurance goes up to address that gap.
But according to the TMA’s estimates, insured Texas families pay nearly 80 percent more than the national average in premiums to cover the cost of care for the uninsured.
Perry’s stance shows a remarkable lack both of understanding basic economics and empathy. The man just plain doesn’t care about taking concrete steps to help make Texans healthier. He and his conservative cohort consistently reduce low-income folks’ access to health care every year. And every year the number of uninsured people in Texas rises. And every year costs go up for those Texans who can afford insurance or who can get it through their jobs.
It’s embarrassing … for everyone, apparently, except Rick Perry.