Arlington Chamber of Commerce officials are telling state lawmakers that they support a scenario in which the state accepts $100 billion in Medicaid funding over the next decade to cover 1.5 million uninsured adults.The chamber’s position, reached after months of research and discussion, differs from that of Gov. Rick Perry, who has said that the state would reject the funding provided under the Affordable Care Act. The Legislature holds final say; some lawmakers prefer a “Texas solution” that would let the state accept the funding with fewer strings attached.On Friday, chamber CEO Wes Jurey rejected any characterization that the chamber was in active opposition to Perry and said the chamber tries to avoid taking a political stance.“We are saying that if you don’t look at this as conservative or liberal, if you don’t look at this as Democrat or Republican, we feel that this is the best choice for the state’s economic health,” Jurey said. “If we don’t take the money, those people still won’t be insured tomorrow. They’ll still be showing up at the emergency room. Somebody will still be paying for it.”Medicaid now covers children, seniors and the disabled. The Affordable Care Act expands eligibility to adults with incomes within 133 percent of the federal poverty level and pays for most of it for the next 10 years.For the first three three years, federal funds cover 100 percent of the increased cost; afterward, the split gradually settles to 90 percent federal and 10 percent state.“This is still better than the 60-40 split we have now,” Jurey said.A few states have made deals to alter the program to provide more local control, and some Texas lawmakers hope the state can follow that path.Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said healthcare is the state’s biggest budget driver, pointing out that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program constitute 30 percent of the proposed budget, totaling $59.3 billion.The average monthly caseload of Medicaid clients has increased by 75 percent from 2002 to 2012, a pace that Williams said is crowding out funding for education and other needs.Williams said the state has a responsibility to care for the indigent but warned that Texas cannot absorb the cost “if we don’t reform how these programs work.”Former state revenue estimator Billy Hamilton recently told lawmakers that the federal offer was “the best deal you will ever see.” This report includes material from Bloomberg News and the Star-Telegram archives.
Patrick M. Walker, 682-232-4674 Twitter: @patrickmwalker1