There is No Excuse for Texas Not To Reach a Deal with a Texas Solution

AnneUnless our state takes action soon, come Jan. 1, 2014, Texas adults just below the poverty line, such as parents in a family of 4 living on $23,000 a year, will have no access to affordable health care under the Affordable Care Act.  But their neighbors with a family of 4 living on $29,000 a year—just above poverty—would qualify for sliding-scale premium assistance and reduced out-of-pocket costs in the new health insurance marketplace.

While our leadership has been steadfast in their refusal to accept the opportunity to cover this group of Texans, our legislators had been relatively silent on the issue, minus a few press conferences. But for the first time during the 2013 legislative session, a committee of lawmakers met last week to discuss Medicaid Expansion, which is estimated to cover an estimated 1.1 million uninsured low-income parents and other adults in 2014.

Two very different bills were heard in last week’s hearing–HB 3376 by House Appropriations Committee vice chairman Rep. Sylvester Turner, and HB 3791 by Rep. John Zerwas, who serves as the chairman of the HAC subcommittee on health and human services.  CPPP joined dozens of organizations and individual Texas family consumers in testifying on both bills.

CPPP supported Rep. Turner’s bill, which is a straightforward directive to implement the coverage for our poorest uninsured adults.  We shared with legislators Census data showing Texas is home to more than 800,000 uninsured U.S. citizen workers with incomes below the ACA Medicaid threshold (138 percent of the federal poverty income limit).  Those uninsured Texas workers are highly concentrated in the retail, food service/hotel, health care, and construction sectors.  Our testimony also showed the wide range of jobs in Texas that have typical wages that would qualify a worker for the ACA’s Medicaid coverage, either as a childless adult or as a parent.

We testified in a neutral position on Rep. Zerwas’ bill because it mixes in one bill proposals we strongly support with ideas we fundamentally oppose.  On the plus side, Rep. Zerwas’ bill could provide the framework for an Arkansas-style conservative compromise, which CPPP supports.  However, the bill also calls for Texas to ask Congress for a Medicaid block grant, which we oppose, and includes a “Plan C” fall-back proposal to cover only about 30,000 of the estimated 1.1 million Texans.  Because Arkansas lawmakers and federal Medicaid officials have now succeeded in reaching a deal to ensure the poorest adults are not left out of coverage in 2014, there is just no excuse for Texas not to reach the same goal and have care choices available for all in January 2014.

To get involved and stay informed about advocacy on the ACA Medicaid coverage opportunity—and general work to move Texas forward to cover the uninsured—sign our CPPP pledge here and share it with your family and friends. You can also sign up for emails from the Texas Well and Healthy campaign.  If your organization wants to take a stand, check out the Cover Texas Now Coalition, a partner in that campaign.

Watch testimony from more members of the Texas Well and Healthy campaign at last week’s hearing.

Written by Anne Dunkelburg, Center for Public Policy Priorities. Cross-posted from the Better Texas Blog

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