LAREDO, Texas – President Biden’s nominee for secretary of health and human services will find a way of expanding Medicaid for South Texas, says U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. 

Former congressman and California attorney general Xavier Becerra is Biden’s nominee to run the health and human services department.

On a webinar Friday, Cuellar said Becerra is a good friend. He said he plans to bring Becerra to the South Texas border region, once his nomination has been confirmed by Congress.

“I certainly want to bring him down, do a little tour, San Antonio, Laredo and the Valley. I will tell you something about Xavier, he is a very smart individual. If there is a way to expand that (Medicaid) he is going to find it,” Cuellar said.

U. S. Rep. Henry Cuellar

Cuellar was asked about the chances of Medicaid being expanded by a reporter on the webinar. It was pointed out that the South Texas border region has unique health care challenges, with a high number of residents lacking health insurance. Almost every elected official and healthcare leader in the region has called for Medicaid to be expanded. 

In his response, Cuellar noted that a number of Republican-controlled states are now taking federal funds to expand Medicaid because the federal-to-state ratio is so good. But not so Texas.

“If you remember, back in 2010 when we voted for the Obamacare, which I supported, we provided millions of people with insurance. We expanded CHIP, even though Texas still needs to do a lot more. Texas still does not take advantage of all the CHIP federal dollars,” Cuellar said.

“But, under Obamacare the state of Texas has left billions, billions of dollars on the table for Medicaid expansion. And if you recall, even some Red states – but not Texas – expanded it because they thought it made sense. What was it? Ninety percent of it was paid by the federal government and ten percent by the state? It was crazy, and I emphasize the word crazy for the state of Texas not to do that. But the Republican leadership, they didn’t like Obama, they didn’t like Obamacare, and they did that.”

The Texas Legislature is currently in session and there is talk of Medicaid being expanded. 

“I do not know what they are going to do this session. Maybe they will do it under this pandemic. If this pandemic does not get them to do that, I do not know what will,” Cuellar said.

“But, if the state does not do it, then I am hoping that this Medicaid expansion, not Medicare for all, but this Medicaid expansion will be done at the federal level.”

Becerra can be the health and human services secretary to make it happen, Cuellar predicted.

“You are very insightful in the sense that this is going to be key with Xavier. I will talk to Xavier, or Secretary Becerra to see if there is a way because California does it,” Cuellar said.

“I will tell Xavier, what do we do with Texas? What do we do here? If the state legislature doesn’t do it, then I am hoping we can work with Xavier and the Biden administration to find a solution to this.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Xavier Becerra. (Photo credit: Al Drago/Bloomberg News)

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