The Republican Governors Association held its annual meeting last week in Scottsdale, AZ. As one might expect from a gathering of Republicans considering 2016 presidential runs, the three-day session mainly consisted of Tea Party one-upmanship over who disagrees the most with President Obama.
One of their primary targets was the Affordable Care Act–specifically Medicaid expansion. Republicans see attacking the ACA as politically beneficial now more than ever, and governors who chose to refuse Medicaid expansion are already bragging about it. Of all the talking point rationalizations at the conference, Governor Rick Perry's statements win the prize for most outlandish GOP Obamacare hyperbole. Perry, justifying his decision to deny $100 billion of federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage, declared, “It's like putting 1,000 more people on the Titanic when you knew what was going to happen.
That's quite a statement from a man who has already accepted over $100 million in ACA grants so far, and asked for $100 million more for Medicaid just two months ago.
Read more about Perry's hypocrisy after the jump.Since the ACA was passed in 2010, Texas has received $100 million of various grants to expand statewide public health services. And Rick Perry hasn't been shy about asking for more–he requested an additional $100 million from the Obama administration to expand Medicaid services for the elderly and disabled. Funny how quietly requesting Medicaid funding for specific programs is all right, but becomes a Titanic-sized disaster when presidential hopeful Perry is speaking to a national audience.
Governor Perry has also quietly encouraged the individuals with pre-existing conditions who make up Texas' high risk insurance pool to enroll in the ACA health insurance exchanges. The state is shutting down the high risk pool because the ACA will provide better coverage options for Texas residents–helping to implement the same law that Perry earlier referred to as a “felony.”
Perry further justified his stance by saying that “it's a philosophical position” to choose to deny health coverage to people living below the poverty line, revealing that the consequences his actions have for Texans weren't on his mind when he made his decision.
Compare Perry's statements to those of Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican who chose to expand Medicaid in his state. He explained his decision thusly,
“I always try to put myself in the shoes of somebody else to say: 'How would I feel if I didn't have health insurance? Are you kidding me?'…It's going to save lives. It's going to help people, and you tell me what's more important than that.“
Kasich is certainly not perfect, but this is one decision he got right. In this instance, he put his constituents first, something Perry has hardly ever done.
If we're going to compare Medicaid expansion to the Titanic, it's clear that Governor Rick Perry isn't the one saving people, he's the one condemning them. Medicaid expansion could have provided up to 1.5 million Texans living below the poverty line with health insurance. These are people who face the highest risk for health problems–poverty is a leading determinant of health outcomes. By denying these individuals access to health insurance, Perry is ensuring that it will continue to be almost impossible for them to receive the health care they need. This is the real tragedy of refusing Medicaid expansion, and Rick Perry is to blame.