Even Greg Abbott's Advisors Lack Answers For Texas' Uninsured

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Earlier this week Greg Abbott hosted a forum with Merrill Matthews on his website in which the controversial policy advisor answered questions regarding the state of Texas and the Affordable Care Act. Some of the questions, including those from Conservative Tea Party types were tough, because well Republicans haven't really been forced to answer them in the past. Surprising (or not) when it came down to it, the free-market evangelist referred many seeking help to federal programs.

One fellow concerned about the impact of the individual mandate that he believes, “requires the government to infringe on everyone's civil liberties” had to ask, “Is there a Republican alternative that can make it easier for people with preexisting conditions to get health insurance?” Great question! The answer Matthews provides is that Republicans support a state-based high risk pool and that, “Federal legislation that created best practices would have been a good idea.” So, you know like Common Core for Healthcare.

One questioner asked, “Who regulates healthcare navigators in the state of Texas?” to which Matthews falsely replied, “Um, the groups that the administration gave money too.” Not true, and he was corrected by an Abbott Policy Advisor who shared a link to the Senate Bill 1795 which applies state regulations on navigators and was passed during the 83rd legislative session.

Someday it may be Abbott answering the questions, but until then see how his advisor takes the heat from voters with serious questions about their health care in Texas…

When another asked what Abbott's plan was for the 25% of Texans who are left uninsured, Abbott's “Policy Analyst” chimed in with, “Repealing Obamacare will be a first step toward allowing Texas and other states to address our unique health care situation without federal interference.” Of course before there was Obamacare, Texas' uniquely ranked at top of the nation's uninsured states, which the commenter aptly pointed out, “Repealing Obamacare” is merely a campaign slogan.”

The back and forth question after question led Matthews to deride Medicaid in favor of the high-risk pool, eventually saying that there is a, “big debate among health policy people whether Medicaid is better than nothing.” What Matthews is trying to say in so many words is that there is no Republican solution for the uninsured in Texas.

One man took an interesting approach asking, “Why does he [Abbott] think that Washington DC can run the Texas healthcare exchange better than us Texans?” Mike Goldman an Abbott Policy Analyst, said the AG was opposed to Medicaid expansion and that refusing to enact a state-level health care, which he called “courageous,” could, “place Texas in a better position to invalidate portions of Obamacare entirely.”

So again the idea is to invalidate an existing law, not to provide health care alternatives for Texans who currently lack them. A woman presumably near retirement age asked what of those who do not qualify for Medicaid, can not afford insurance and whose spouse makes too much money for other government assistance programs. Matthews said the answer comes down to a need for “flexibility” but according to him when state's ask for it, “they immediately get shut down.” Pressing through a strictly political response looking for a substantive policy answer, she asked, “So in the mean time do you have any resolution to my problem, I can't seem to get any where?” The answer she received may not surprise you after all — the federal government. “My only suggestion is the Social Security office.” said Matthews, and continued, “…please look into the Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal program designed to help lower-income working people financially. Some 20 million Americans or more get benefits from that program.”

To sum it up, Abbott does not support expanding Medicaid or creating and operating our own health care exchange, yet wants more flexibility from the federal government. If you can not afford health insurance, or you don't have enough to put away in a Health Savings Account, check out the federal government and see what they have to offer! In the meantime the number one campaign issue will continue to be “repealing Obamacare,” and it says so right on his website.

You can read the entire discussion here.

You can follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.


About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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