Health Care In The States

Could Grass-Roots Pressure Trigger Change Of Heart In Texas?

By Carrie Feibel, KUHF

July 11th, 2012, 2:13 PM

Health reform advocates and Democrats in Texas are reacting to Gov. Rick Perry’s vow to turn down both the Medicaid expansion and health insurance exchange mandated in the federal health law.

Anne Dunkelberg of the left-leaning, Austin, Texas, think tank Center for Public Policy Priorities said that the Legislature will get to vote on whether the state starts work on its own exchange when it meets in January. She is hoping public outcry could help override a Perry veto or even change the governor’s mind.

“It concerns us deeply that this position is being taken and no solutions are being put forward to do anything about the 6.2 million uninsured Texans,” Dunkelberg said. “[Texas] would be leaving $76 billion dollars in federal funds on the table, funds that will go to other states that do exercise the Medicaid expansion.”

Perry’s opponents would likely have a tough fight in January to get the state to do its own exchange, since both houses of the Legislature are Republican controlled.

But Dunkelberg argues that turning down the exchange will create political problems for Perry.

“As the governor knows, there will be a federally operated exchange in every state that doesn’t create its own,” she said. “The exchanges were the most popular reforms that the public supports so strongly in every poll, even Republicans.”

Marta Soledad, 29, speaks in favor of expanding Medicaid to more uninsured Texans. She is joined by Durrel Douglas, center, of the Texas Organizing Project and Kenneth Walker, who also spoke at the rally (Photo by Carrie Feibel/KUHF).

Perry doesn’t see it that way. In a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelieus, the governor wrote:Neither a ‘state’ exchange nor the expansion of Medicaid under the Orwellian-named [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] would result in better ‘patient protection’ or in more ‘affordable care.’ What they would do is make Texas a mere appendage of the federal government when it comes to health care.”

State representative Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, says Perry is being hypocritica,l since he accepts federal funds all the time, for instance, stimulus funds and disaster funds.

“What is it, is it funny to withhold care from people through a regular doctor?” Coleman said. “Is this something that they get joy out of, or the governor gets joy out of? I hope not.”

On Tuesday, Texas Organizing Project, a left-leaning organization that works on poverty, jobs, and voting issues, held a small rally to protest Perry’s move outside of Ben Taub Hospital, a public hospital in Houston.

Kenneth Walker, 52, a self-employed construction worker who is uninsured, said, “For them to take that away from me before I even get a chance to get it, is crazy,” Walker said at the rally. “I work hard, man, and I don’t have health care. And for this guy to come on national TV and say that he’s going to fight against [the health law], —  he’s not going to allow us Texans to have it — is a slap in our face.”

This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes KUHF, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

2 Responses to “Could Grass-Roots Pressure Trigger Change Of Heart In Texas?”

  1. Pete says:

    In my opinion, Governor Rick Perry hates President Obama and has one thing on his mind, to make President Obama a one-term President. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is leading the fight to end Obama’s Presidency with the 2012 election. Nothing else matters to him. Not jobs. Not the economy. Nothing except ending Obama’s Presidency at one term. Governor Perry has signed on to the McConnell agenda. Noting else matters in Texas except to end Obama’s Presidency at one term. Over 1 in 4 Texans are without health insurance. Texas may rank number one as the most business friendly state but that is only because Texas ranks last in health care coverage. In Texas, employers don’t need to worry about giving their employees decent wages and health care coverage. Why? Because Texas is a right-to-work state where employers are allowed to shut down the collective bargaining process that gives workers a fair shot at a decent living and decent benefits. Everyone knows that any business can thrive in a state that allows slavery.

  2. JoAnne says:

    My company provides psychiatric services to all populations, but our biggest patient base consists of Medicare recipients, with Medicaid recipients running a close second. The Federal Government has consistently slashed reimbursement rates for adequate services to this already poorly served population, and Rick Perry’s decision to further reduce programs and services is a typical idiotic move for this Governor. This out of touch politician might find out what really happens at the provider patient level if he would open his eyes and look at how real people live. But, we already know from his past decisions and policies, that unless you are among his privileged demographic, you don’t deserve a second thought. Texas residents suffer at the bottom of adequate healthcare (worst in the country) because of this self-interested Governor and his policies. Maybe Texas voters will respond soon with their votes by electing a Governor who is in touch with the 99% and who does not overlook their needs.