|WASHINGTON, June 6 - A member of Congress who wants Gov. Rick Perry to add Medicaid expansion to the call for the special session is citing the findings of a new report to make his case.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar asked his staff to contact the Guardian to highlight a report by the Rand Corp. that analyzed 14 states with governors who oppose the Medicaid expansion.
The report points out that U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act in 2012 allowed states to opt out of the health reform law’s Medicaid expansion. Since that ruling, 14 governors have announced that their states will not expand their Medicaid programs. The Rand Corp. used the RAND COMPARE micro-simulation to analyze how opting out of Medicaid expansion would affect coverage and spending, and whether alternative policy options—such as partial expansion of Medicaid—could cover as many people at lower costs to states.
“We estimate that 3.6 million fewer people would be insured, federal transfer payments to those states could fall by $8.4 billion, and state spending on uncompensated care could increase by $1 billion in 2016, compared to what would be expected if all states participated in the expansion,” the Rand Corp. report states. It says the effects were only partially mitigated by alternative options. The report concluded that in terms of coverage, cost, and federal payments, states would do best to expand Medicaid.
“State policymakers should be aware that if they do not expand Medicaid, fewer people will have health insurance, and state and local governments will have to bear higher costs for uncompensated care,” said Carter Price and Christine Eibner of the Rand Corp. “We estimated states' costs for expansion to be less than the reduction in their costs for uncompensated care.”
The Rand Corp. report is published in Health Affairs. Click here to read the report.
Congressman Cuellar was the only Democratic House member from Texas not to sign a letter calling on Gov. Perry to add Medicaid expansion to the call for the current special session. Cuellar told the Guardian that he did not sign it only because he was out of the country at the time the letter was drafted.
“I was out of the country but I support this letter. Gov. Perry probably won't accept our advice but expanding Medicaid is clearly something we need to do. We will lose over $100 million over the next ten years if we do not use the federal funds that could be coming down,” said Cuellar, D-Laredo.
Cuellar said the border region would benefit the most by expanding Medicaid because it has the highest percentage of residents without healthcare coverage. “We have the most to gain. About 35 percent of my constituents do not health insurance. By expanding Medicaid we can help get folks covered.”
U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, cited a report by the Urban Institute which shows that nearly 49,000 veterans in Texas will not gain access to healthcare because Texas has declined to expand Medicaid.
“This report makes a compelling case for Medicaid expansion,” Gallego said. “I just returned from Afghanistan where I met with our brave service-members. We have an obligation to be there for them when they return. They deserve more than just rhetoric.”
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said there were not only the moral, but economic imperatives for expanding Medicaid coverage in our state. “The study cited in the letter shows us what we already know, as the state with the highest percentage of uninsured folks, Texas has the most to gain from participating in a program we are already paying for. With the special session underway in the Texas Legislature, the Governor has a chance to ensure that millions of Texans, including 49,000 of our military veterans, have access to quality health care. We know this can be done and hope Governor Perry does the right thing,” Castro said.
The letter to Perry was signed by Reps. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, Marc A. Veasey, D-Fort Worth, Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, Gene Green, D-Houston, Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Al Green, D-Houston, Castro and Gallego.
Here is the letter:
Dear Governor Perry:
We regret that the 83rd Legislature failed to pass Medicaid expansion during the regular session. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would help insure 1.5 million Texans, draw down $90 billion in federal funds, lower the burden for Texas taxpayers, and relieve the budgets of local and county governments.
The failure of Medicaid expansion is particularly harmful to Texas veterans. A recent report highlighted the harmful impact of not expanding Medicaid to these Texans who have already given our country so much - and to whom our state and our nation owe a debt of gratitude. Nearly 49,000 veterans in Texas will not gain access to healthcare because Texas has declined to expand Medicaid.
A report by the Urban Institute shows that nearly 535,000 uninsured veterans and 174,000 spouses of veterans are eligible to obtain health coverage under the ACA through the Medicaid expansion. Sadly, more than a quarter million veterans who would have been eligible - 258,000 – live in states that have rejected the expansion. At 48,900, Texas is home to more than any other state.
This is unacceptable.
The Saturday preceding Memorial Day, you participated in a joint session with the Texas House and Texas Senate to honor Texas heroes. You noted, “There is absolutely no disagreement about the importance of honoring America’s fallen heroes…Let’s never forget the debt we owe all of those who served, not just on Memorial Day, but every day of the year.”
We fully share your sentiment. Our servicemen and servicewomen put their lives on the line and sacrifice so much for our freedom. They deserve much more than lofty rhetoric alone.
For the sake of Texas veterans and their families who have so honorably served our country, we respectfully request that you add Medicaid expansion to your call for the current special session.
We are aware of your opposition to expansion. However, in light of your recent pronouncement on the importance of veterans - and this new information regarding the harm done to these valiant Texans - we are hopeful that you will reconsider your position.
We cannot allow the well-being of our veterans to be overlooked. Texas must take advantage of every opportunity to give back to those who have already given us so much.
U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, Marc A. Veasey, D-Fort Worth, Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, Gene Green, D-Houston, Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Al Green, D-Houston.