The incoming Republican-led U.S. Congress has promised to make repealing or at least substantially altering the Affordable Care Act a top agenda item next year.
But in Austin, the recommendation by a board of medical professionals appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, to accept federal dollars made available under the president’s signature healthcare law, might give new life to the debate over how to expand health insurance coverage to low-income Texans.
And that’s a good thing.
According to the Texas Tribune, the 15-member Texas Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency provided a series of recommendations Wednesday, including one that the state’s health commissioner be authorized to negotiate with the federal government to expand health coverage to the poor “using available federal funds.”
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Those federal funds are meant to be used by states to expand Medicaid, something that Texas leaders, including Gov. Rick Perry and Gov.-elect Greg Abbott, are reticent to do.
Texas is not alone in rejecting the Medicaid expansion. More than 20 states have done the same.
But several states, like Wisconsin, have crafted state-specific solutions to the coverage gap, although not always with the cooperation of the federal government or with use of federal funds.
In 2013, state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, put forth a “Texas solution” to healthcare expansion.
He introduced HB 3791, which like the recommendation of the Perry-appointed medical board, would have required the state’s health commissioner to craft a plan that would draw upon federal financing to provide health coverage for poor and uninsured Texans.
His proposal called for seeking permission or a cost-neutral waiver from the federal government to reform Medicaid while expanding coverage to poor adults.
Zerwas was careful to clarify that his bill was “intended to not be an expansion of Medicaid.” Even with that caveat, the bill failed to pass the Legislature.
But the new recommendation by the Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency should be good reason for members of the Legislature to reconsider how it might use federal dollars to insure more Texans.