Texas Democrats in Line Attacking Rick Perry on Healthcare

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We all saw earlier this week that Rick Perry is just going to pretend that Healthcare Reform doesn't apply to him, in a way that will seriously cost Texans, too. Unsurprisingly, Texas Democrats have come out swinging. We saw Chairman Hinojosa take swings, and he actually has an entire party behind him.

Below the fold, see press statements from other Democrats on Perry's horrid decision.  Other leaders in the Texas Democratic Party showed their disgust, too.

You'll hear from state legislative leaders Leticia Van de Putte, Rodney Ellis, and Garnet Coleman. You'll also see what Congressmen Lloyd Doggett and Gene Green had to say, and this is just a sample. Basically, they're all disappointed. And everyone makes their point clear. Van de Putte talks about how this failure goes beyond Perry and to her other colleagues, Ellis opines that we're missing an “historic opportunity,” and Coleman points out that “The move isn't just mean, it's fiscally irresponsible.”

Doggett and Green, who helped craft this law as House Democrats, point out how Perry's decision is “disgraceful” and a “terrible idea,” respectively. Hopefully, some Republicans will start listening to this sound judgement.

Read the full statements below.

State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, SD26

Governor Perry's decision this morning is unfortunate, but not unexpected. Sadly, too many of my colleagues believe that blocking access to health care security will somehow lead our people 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. Thankfully, the Obama Administration will help out by crafting an insurance exchange for us, but we've missed an opportunity to have an exchange crafted by Texans for Texas, and to extend Medicaid to working Texans who desperately need it.

State Senator Rodney Ellis, SD13

I am extremely disappointed in Governor Perry's announcement that he plans to do nothing to implement key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would provide access to health insurance for millions of hard-working Texans.  His plan is short-sighted and, thankfully, not the final word.  Next year, the legislature can take steps to implement health exchanges and expand access to Medicaid, and I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this happen.

This issue is too important to let politics and rhetoric rule the day.  Texas leads the nation in percentage uninsured, has one of the highest poverty and food insecurity rates, and has vast shortages of doctors, dentists, and nurses.  In fact, Texas ranks at or near the bottom in nearly every important health care statistic you can name, and just chose to cut $10 billion more from our health care budget, including under-funding Medicaid by about $4 billion, plus deeper cuts to already-minimal services. We have an historic opportunity to finally do something about these dismal numbers, but, instead, we are choosing to stand in the doorway and say 'no.'

That is not good enough.

The simple fact is that we have to do something to address this crisis.  Thankfully, Texans are already benefiting from the Affordable Care Act.  Health plans must now spend 80 to 85 percent of every premium dollar on health care, insurers can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, young adults can be covered under their parents plan until 26 years, and tax credits are available to small businesses to help cover premium costs.  More than 120 of Texas' largest employers have received over $445 million in federal support to make early retiree health coverage more affordable.  In addition, 2.2 million Texas seniors in Medicare received preventive services or check-ups with no co-pay, and Texans saved $135 million on prescription drugs as a result of closing the Medicare prescription drug 'donut hole.'  But, the greatest gains will come in 2014 when approximately 2 million more uninsured Texans could gain coverage through Medicaid and CHIP, but Texas must opt in to the expansion and that is now going to be a big fight.

The ACA was intended to extend coverage to the majority of individuals, most notably portions of the most vulnerable populations that are currently excluded from Medicaid coverage because they do not have children and are not pregnant or disabled.

This Medicaid expansion will provide coverage for low-income adults who are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($14,856 per individual or $30,657 for a family of four), are less than 65 years old, and do not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.  For these individuals, Medicaid will mean the opportunity to have a primary doctor and continuity in care reducing their reliance on the expensive care currently provided in emergency rooms. For this expansion, Texas will receive a 100 percent match for the first three years and gradually reducing to 90 percent of funding thereafter.

Individuals at or above 100 percent of poverty will have the ability to purchase health insurance with subsidies through a federal health exchange or one-stop shop for health insurance, even if Texas decides not to run its own exchange, ensuring these populations will have access to quality, affordable health insurance.  Unfortunately for most individuals below 100 percent FPL who are not currently covered by Medicaid there is no safeguard, so we must decide to do the right thing and enact laws to protect these Texans.

Critics of the Affordable Care Act constantly say 'Texas knows how to take care of Texans better than Washington.'  Well, it is time to prove it.  Instead of just saying 'no', let's see a plan to provide more Texans with insurance.  No more politics — let's see a plan that actually helps Texans.

Having access to quality, affordable health insurance is a fundamental human right and not a privilege.  The Supreme Court has spoken and the Affordable Care Act is now officially the law of the land.  It is long past time to remove narrow politics from the health care debate and focus on truly improving health of women, children, and all Americans.  We can and must do better.

State Representative Garnet Coleman, HD147

The Medicaid expansion is expected to benefit over 2 million people in just a few years. If we do not move forward with the expansion, a significant number of them will be in the unusually cruel position of being too poor to qualify for assistance. The hardest hit will be those with mental illnesses and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and hypertension. These are conditions that are often very treatable but can develop into something much more serious and expensive without consistent access to primary care. With the Medicaid expansion they will have this access; without it, they won't.

The move isn't just mean, it's fiscally irresponsible. What is now completely paid for by Texas will instead be completely paid for by the federal government for the first 3 years and then 90% for every year after that. The federal government is in effect offering to shoulder almost all the cost of care that is currently being financed through counties and hospital districts. The Medicaid expansion will also bring relief to those who already have insurance. Right now, hospitals pass the cost of uncompensated care onto those who can pay, and there is a lot of uncompensated care in Texas. The Medicaid expansion will reduce the level of uncompensated care, so less will be passed on to others. There is also a great economic impact that the expansion would have in Texas. It has been estimated that there is a 3.25 multiplier for every federal healthcare dollar spent in our state, and the Medicaid expansion will result in an additional $164 billion in federal dollars being spent in Texas over the first decade. This will have an enormously positive effect on our economy, particularly by creating new jobs for physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners, LVN's, radiologist technicians, and the numerous businesses associated with the medical community.

As far as not setting up our own health insurance exchange, I'm not sure what Governor Perry thinks this will accomplish. The exchanges will be set up no matter what the Governor says; the only question is by whom. If we don't do it, the federal government will. This is an area where one might think that President Obama and Governor Perry would agree: Texans are in the best position to know what will work for our state. Indeed, the Governor just said on Fox News that he doesn't trust Washington, but this is exactly what failing to set up our own exchange will do: put that power in the hands of the federal government, not Texans.

I hope that Governor Perry will do what is right for Texas and reconsider his position.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett, CD25

Having once talked about Texas' right to secede, Governor Perry's move to secede from health insurance reform is not surprising, but it is disgraceful.  He is only trying to protect his Big Insurance buddies and deny millions of working Texans access to an insurance marketplace similar to the one through which he once obtained his own health insurance.  And his refusal of billions of federal dollars is more of the same-a narrow-minded policy, which denies our most economically disadvantaged neighbors access to a family doctor and denies many employers a more healthy workforce. Fortunately, we have a federal path around his mean-spirited obstructionism.

Congressman Gene Green, CD29

I'm disappointed in Governor Perry's announcement to reject federal Medicaid funding and his refusal to set up a state health exchange.  The Medicaid refusal will mean fewer children and families will receive necessary healthcare and will primarily impact our working families that currently fall through the cracks because they can't afford their own health plan but make enough money that they can't qualify for current Medicaid.  For three years, the Medicaid expansion would not have cost the state of Texas one dime.  After three years, the state would have the option to pay 10% or go back to the old system without penalty.

The decision to forego setting up a state exchange is a terrible idea.  The Affordable Care Act was very clear, every state will have an exchange.  The bill provides grant money, which the State of Texas requested, to defray the cost of setting up an exchange.  However, the decision by Governor Perry means that the Federal Government will come in and set up our exchange for us.  Texas will have no opportunity to customize and tailor the exchange to the unique needs of Texans.  The Texas Department of Insurance will have absolutely no control and no authority.

We can disagree with parts of the law but it is the law, the Supreme Court has ruled on it, and it is time for Governor Perry to respect that.


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1 Comment

  1. Opportunity
    Perry and the Rs have given us a real gift, allowing the Ds to highlight the difference between the parties and the real costs that the R ideologues are inflicting on Texas. Let's run with this.

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