As governor of Texas, Rick Perry used 3 million of the most vulnerable Texans as bargaining chips in an effort to make a point about states' rights. Perry repeatedly supported efforts to eliminate or gut Medicaid beyond recognition, despite research showing that his proposal would actually cost more money to insure fewer Texans.
After casually floating the idea in 2009 that Texas may have no choice but to secede from the Union, Perry kept the ball rolling in 2010 by threatening that Texas might drop out of Medicaid. His proposal was really gaining steam with promises of lower costs and less red tape – until a study by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Insurance found that not only would Texas would lose out on $15 billion in federal matching funds, but 2.6 million Texans would actually lose their insurance coverage.
And the hospital bills of these patients who used to be covered by Medicaid would show up in Texans' property taxes. On top of that, Texans would continue to subsidize Medicaid in other states.
After seeing the price tag, even Texas Republicans in the legislature wanted to see it pulled.
As governor, Perry had the opportunity to set an example and use Texas as a laboratory to show how Medicaid could be streamlined and improved – maybe even on a national scale. Instead, he proposed Medicaid waivers so restrictive in terms of both benefits provided and population covered that even the Bush Administration rejected them.
Rather than find constructive ways to improve upon policies and programs in genuine need of fresh ideas, Perry once again threatened to walk away from the table, putting millions of Texans and billions of dollars of funding at risk.
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