BROWNSVILLE, February 7 - In 2007, our community lost one of our finest and noblest neighbors to cancer. Joe Gallegos, father of five, had decided to drop his insurance so as to be able to cover his two boys, both of whom wanted to start to play football.
Joe and his wife, both hard workers, made too much money to have their children qualify for Medicaid, but they did not make enough money to be able to provide coverage for the whole family.
A month after Joe dropped his insurance, he discovered his cancer, and he died six months later. Only his end of life procedures were covered (under emergency Medicaid) by emergency Medicaid insurance.
The Affordable Care Act has offered states the option to offer health insurance through the Medicaid program to individuals, like Joe, who make between 100 percent to 138 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. A worker with a family of four making $31,000 a year or less would receive this coverage.
Texas Governor Perry continues to insist on refusing to expand Medicaid coverage to people like Joe Gallegos. As citizens, as parents, as neighbors, it is time to let Governor Perry know that we need this expansion.
In the Rio Grande Valley, Medicaid expansion would extend care to more than 86,000 adults - working parents, grandparents, and neighbors, all of whom, right now, live under the awful threat of being seriously ill, or injured—and having no way to access medical care.
The expansion of Medicaid in Texas would be a great financial deal for Texas. The federal government would over the first three years; thereafter the feds would continue to pick up 9/10ths of the costs. The state would end up spending $15 billion—in return for $90 billion of services. In the first five years alone, Texas would spend $3.1 billion while gaining $27 billion in services. There will be no better deal to cover uninsured Texans. Dr. Ray Perryman, an economist, has projected that expanding Medicaid would be an economic windfall for our state, generating $1.29 in state revenue, increasing local government tax collections by another 51 cents, and saving local governments $1.21, all for every $1 in Texas funds spent.
And while Medicaid expansion would be a true blessing for those families that would be covered, it would also bring benefits to those who would not fall under the guidelines. Presently, emergency rooms serve as primary care clinics. As more people are able to access primary care clinics, the costs of uncompensated care for hospitals would drop.
It is too late to help Joe Gallegos, or the thousands of others of our neighbors who have suffered without medical care. It is not too late for our governor to do the right thing—to accept a once in a lifetime opportunity to offer health care to hardworking, tax-paying fellow Texans.
Michael Seifert is network weaver for the Equal Voice Network in the Rio Grande Valley.