Medicaid expansion is good for Texas businesses and Texas families.
I have long been a supporter of expanding Medicaid because I agree with Joe Straus, our former Republican Speaker of the House, that government should be run like a successful business. Expanding Medicaid is a wise fiscal policy, and it’s long past time for Texas to embrace it.
Many states have recently adopted Medicaid expansion; but Texas has been reluctant to follow that lead. I’m proud that Texas follows the beat of its own drummer; but in this case, Texans are missing out.
In previous sessions, opponents have argued that Medicaid expansion costs too much. I believe not expanding Medicaid costs much more. Not only is Medicaid expansion common sense, but it literally makes financial cents.
The federal government doesn’t magically have money of it’s own – it raises revenue from the taxes that you and I pay, and I believe that we should get back as much of that money as we possibly can.
We can go a long way in accomplishing this by expanding Medicaid because the federal government gives us back money to spend on Medicaid, and the amount of money the federal government gives back is determined by how much we’re willing to spend directly from Texas coffers. The more skin in the game from Texas, the greater the return from the federal government.
$1 for $9 More
We’ve all heard the words, but what does Medicaid expansion really mean? It means investing just enough state dollars to pull down the most federal funds to Texas by expanding Medicaid healthcare coverage to certain eligible adults.
Imagine if the bank told you for every 10 cents you invested into your savings account, they’d invest 90 cents in your savings account. So, you could place a dollar into your savings and get nine more dollars from the bank; or put ten dollars into savings and get 90 more dollars from the bank. You’d put more money in savings – but you’d get even more from the bank. Now that’s a deal – and it’s exactly the deal the federal government is offering to Texas if we’d only expand Medicaid. If Texas expanded Medicaid, federal funds would pay for 90% of the state’s program funding – reducing Texas’s liability for Medicaid expenses to just 10%.
Because Texas has failed to expand Medicaid, the federal government covers only 62% of our state’s Medicaid expenses – which means Texans pay 38% directly for Medicaid healthcare costs. However, by expanding Medicaid, data experts project that the state would make a net gain of $54 million a year, or almost $110 million dollars additional revenue for the biennium.
These are our tax dollars that we’ve already paid to the federal government; we’re just not drawing them down because we won’t expand Medicaid.
Instead of wasting state dollars on healthcare services that the federal government would pay for if we expanded Medicaid, Texas could spend more money on public education, small business growth, and economic opportunities for Texans.
The Time is Now
This upcoming session, the Texas Legislature is facing a $4.6 billion budget shortfall, and we’ll have to make painful and difficult decisions. Now more than ever, I believe that my colleagues in the Texas Legislature should embrace Medicaid expansion because it’s good for business, good for revenue, and good for Texas families.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Additionally, secondary benefits are expected to arise as a result of Medicaid expansion such as increased employment rates, less uncompensated care expenses, and less spending per individual enrollee.
It is also well documented that other states that have expanded Medicaid have seen patient outcomes improve and the gaps in health disparities close.
Furthermore, rural Texans would greatly benefit from Medicaid expansion. Folks living in rural Texas make up 11 percent of our state’s Medicaid- expansion eligible population and have the most to gain. Rural hospital closures have caused healthcare catastrophes across Texas which in turn have caused deteriorating health outcomes and crumbling local economies for rural Texans. This is of special importance to us all because parts of the Rio Grande Valley and surrounding areas are still considered rural communities, so we all know how difficult it is to get medical attention. Oftentimes, even a few seconds can make the difference between life or death.
It’s not too late to lead
Texas is one of only twelve remaining states that has not adopted to expand Medicaid. It is about time we stop seeing “Medicaid expansion” as a political term and start seeing it from the common sense and business standpoint that results in almost one million newly eligible adults and $110 million in funding for the upcoming biennium. Businesses know a healthy workforce is a productive workforce.
If we are serious about making up for the budget shortfall and creating a stronger and healthier Texas, then leaders must commit to expand Medicaid. You’ve certainly got a commitment from me.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by state Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, a Democrat from McAllen, Texas. The column appears in the Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Rep. Guerra can be reached via: Stacie.[email protected]
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