LA JOYA, Texas – U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says that by working with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn he has been able to secure healthcare insurance for 771,000 Texans.

Cuellar, D-Laredo, made the announcement at a news conference in La Joya last Thursday. He said the funding would be included in the Build Back Better bill, which he predicted would be passed into law in early 2022. 

The only Texas Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Cuellar said he had secured some key provisions in BBB. The most notable, he said, was more funding to help the uninsured.

“I was able to add language with Jim Clyburn from South Carolina and with my friend in the Senate, Joe Manchin. As you know, when we passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, we told the State of Texas, you have got billions of dollars to expand Medicaid,” Cuellar explained.

“Texas did not want to do it (expand Medicaid) so we were thinking with Jim Clyburn, how do we make this work (and eliminate) this Medicaid (coverage) gap. We worked with Joe Manchin and we came up with this: we are going to use the ACA and pay 100 percent of the insurance premiums for those folks who would have gotten Medicaid. We are going to bypass the State of Texas.”

Clyburn, the House majority whip, is a Democrat from South Carolina. Manchin is a Democrat from West Virginia.

There are a number of southern states that chose not to expand Medicaid when ACA was passed. These include South Carolina and Texas. About 2.1 million people went without insurance as a result, many of them Texans.

According to the Every Texan, a nonprofit group, between 750,000 and 1 million uninsured adult Texans are in the Coverage Gap, meaning they have no affordable health insurance options today. But they would be covered if Texas accepted federal health care funds that are available for their coverage.

With the new provision added into BBB, Cuellar said, 771,000 people in Texas would get health insurance.

“There are thousands of them in Hidalgo (County). They will now have 100 percent of their insurance paid, (filling in) what we call the Medicaid Gap.”

After the news conference, the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service obtained an exclusive interview with Rep. Cuellar. We asked him to go into more depth about the federal funding announcements he had made.

With regard to the Build Back Better bill, Cuellar said he has been successful in adding two or three notable provisions.

“I was able to fund the Southwest Border Commission for $33 million. That is money for economic development along the border areas. No. 2, the big one, the state has been fighting the federal government and not doing the Medicaid Expansion for so many years. Since 2010, actually. They have rejected it.”

Cuellar explained how he has been able to bypass Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid. He said he worked with Rep. Clyburn of South Carolina because Clyburn’s state also refused to expand Medicaid for the poor.

“Out of all the 12 southern states that did not expand Medicaid in 2010, the largest by far is Texas. Two and a half million people have not received the health coverage they could have under the Affordable Care Act. Of these, 771,000 are in the State of Texas. So, what we decided to do is bypass Texas and say, here are the people that fit the Medicaid gap in every state. For the 771,000 where the state is saying, we do not want to help you, we are going to pay their insurance premium 100 percent. That is thousands of people here in Hidalgo (County).”

Cuellar said he also added money for Hispanic serving colleges and universities that can be used for construction projects. “Right now the funding can only be used for programs. These are some of the things I got.”

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