Gallego: Medicaid Expansion Good for San Antonio

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One of Rick Perry's staunchest positions this Legislative Session is his stance against Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Not every Republican is as firm on that position as he is, though, so it is up to Democrats to convince people otherwise. In today's op-ed, Congressman Pete Gallego (D-23) explains why Medicaid Expansion is good for his constituents in San Antonio.

Texas is a land of many firsts. Unfortunately, our great state also has the distinction of being first in the percentage of uninsured residents in the country.

More than 6 million Texans – including 1.2 million children – are uninsured. One in four residents in Bexar County does not have health insurance. These are our friends and our neighbors.

Expanding Medicaid in Texas under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would save taxpayers and local governments millions of dollars in costs of caring for uninsured.

Some projections show that Bexar County alone could save an estimated $53 million per year through the Medicaid expansion. If Texas participated in the expansion, our state could draw down almost $90 billion from the Medicaid expansion in the ACA over the first decade.

We could also help people. More than 1.5 million additional Texans – and 161,000 Bexar County residents would gain access to health care under the Medicaid expansion. And more than three million jobs would be generated according to a report generated by the Perryman Group.

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, hospitals across our state including Christus Santa Rosa, and a majority of Texans are in favor of Medicaid expansion.

Governors in 25 states, both Democratic and Republican, indicated that they will implement the Medicaid expansion.

Opting out of the Medicaid expansion doesn't save taxpayer money – opting out actually costs local taxpayers. There is no reason that Texans' hard-earned tax dollars should instead go to insure residents and bolster the economies of other states.

Expanding Medicaid would greatly benefit many safety net hospitals – such as Christus Santa Rosa here in San Antonio – that serve a significant number of uninsured and low-income patients. Hospitals will be higher reimbursed for the costs of treating the uninsured if Texas opts to expand Medicaid.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, failure to expand Medicaid in Texas will cost the state's hospitals nearly $25 billion in reimbursements between 2013 and 2022.

County jails in some circumstances also serve as the number one health care provider to individuals with mental illness – a costly task for which they are not equipped. The Medicaid expansion would relieve county jails of this burden – freeing their capacity to focus on individuals who have committed serious crimes.

It does not seem particularly efficient to force local governments and Texas taxpayers to bear the brunt of covering the uninsured. In fact, it seems contrary to good public policy.

Looking objectively at the numbers, Texas has a dismal record on health care. It is a record of which no Texan can be proud.

We can work to turn that record around. Texans would greatly be served by expanding Medicaid. The expansion would benefit not only our residents, but also our local and county governments and our economy.

Instead of rejecting the return of Texans' tax dollars to Texas, Gov. Rick Perry should make it his mission to obtain more health care for our residents while bringing more jobs to Texas, lowering the burden for our taxpayers and relieving the budgets of local and county governments.

Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do. It is both compassionate and efficient – and that is the Texas way.

Let's hope our governor agrees.


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