02.04.13

Big news on public education and health care

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Education, Health Care at 5:56 pm by wcnews

Today the biggest non-surprise in Texas history became reality, Judge: School finance system unconstitutional.

Texas’ system of funding public schools is unconstitutional, state District Judge John Dietz ruled Monday.

Dietz ruled that the state had not provided adequate resources to lift students to the state’s new high standards.

“We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price or we don’t,” Dietz said.

He also found that wide disparities had emerged between school districts that are considered property poor and their wealthier peers. And he said the Legislature had effectively imposed a statewide property tax in violation of the Texas Constitution.

After 12 weeks of trial testimony, Dietz announced his decision from the bench to a packed courtroom and upheld all the major claims by the school districts. A direct appeal to the Texas Supreme Court is expected soon.

Two-thirds of Texas school districts sued the state claiming that the Legislature has failed to live up to its constitutional obligation to provide an “efficient system of public free schools.” Their multitude of claims amount to a culmination of nearly 30 years of school finance litigation.

For the first time, charter schools joined in the school finance litigation and argued that the lack of state funding for classrooms and other school facilities is unconstitutional, as is the current cap limiting the number of new charter operators. Dietz said the the Legislature has discretion over both of those issues and thus did not violate the constitution.

A sixth plaintiff group, called Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, argued that state requirements, such as minimum salary requirements for teachers and the lack of competition render the system inefficient and thus unconstitutional. The Texas Association of Business has joined this lawsuit.

Dietz said the claims by TREE warranted scrutiny by the Legislature but were not in the purview of the court.

The scheme current GOP leadership put into place in 2006 did absolutely nothing to fix the school finance problems. And, in all likelihood, only made them worse.  The Texas Tribune has more on the ruling.

Harvey Kronberg has the ruling and Judge Dietz’s comments here.

Also today another Republican governor caved and will be accepting the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, John Kasich Accepts Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion.

The governor unveiled the decision as part of his budget proposal.

“We are going to extend Medicaid for the working poor and for those who are jobless trying to find work,” Kasich said at a press conference in Columbus. “It makes great sense for the state of Ohio because it will allow us to provide greater care with our own dollars.”

The four other Republican governors to back the Medicaid expansion are Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota and Jan Brewer of Arizona. About a dozen GOP governors from red states have rejected the expansion; others from mostly blue and purple states have yet to decide. Democratic governors have broadly embraced it.

And in Texas the support just keeps growing for expanding Medicaid in Texas.  Here’s a
Statement from Representative Garnet F. Coleman on the Texas Medica Association’s recent call for a bipartisan solution to expand Medicaid in Texas.

“As someone who has advocated for Medicaid expansion from the very beginning, I applaud TMA’s statement that we need to find a way to implement the expansion here in Texas. It’s a great start, and I agree with their position that denying care to over 1 million disabled and low-income Texans is ‘unconscionable.’

However, the devil is in the details. TMA’s proposal that Texas should have more ‘flexibility’ in the Medicaid program is worrisome because of its vagueness. ‘Flexibility’ has long been a code word used by those who only want the ‘flexibility’ to reduce Medicaid services, beneficiaries, or both. Further, it’s unclear whether TMA wants more flexibility in the entire Medicaid program or just the expanded portion. Finally, the federal government already allows for Medicaid flexibility through the 1115 Waiver process, most recently seen in the 1115 Transformation Waiver that allows Texas health providers to continue to receive federal UPL funds after the switch from fee-for-service to managed care.

TMA correctly points out that the low reimbursement rate of Medicaid in Texas has resulted in only 30% of Texas physicians accepting new Medicaid patients, but I want to remind everyone that Medicaid reimbursement rates are set by the Texas State Legislature and the Governor through the appropriations process, not by Washington. We could simply pass a budget that raises them. I’d vote for it. Also, physicians are not the only providers who see Medicaid patients. Advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, and entities such as Federally Qualified Health Centers, county hospital districts, and Accountable Care Organizations will all help fill the gap. Our primary goal should be to ensure that all Texas have access to care, and this is something we can do.

Finally, Texas, not Washington, will decide whether or not we expand Medicaid in this state. Governors across the country of each party are realizing that expanding Medicaid is important and the best policy for their populations; we need to do the same. The bipartisan solution that TMA calls for is already on the table. We just need to take it.”

And today Texas Impact and the Texas Catholic Conference release a letter to Gov. Perry, Lt. Dewhurst, and Speaker Straus urgin them to Extend Health Care Coverage to 1.3M Uninsured Texans.

In a letter today to the legislative leadership, two of the state’s largest religious organizations urged policymakers to extend Medicaid coverage to 1.3 million low-income, uninsured Texans as part of the federal Affordable Care Act; failing that, the organizations called for any proposed alternative to Medicaid be equal in coverage or breadth of eligibility that would have been achieved under that expansion.

The letter, signed by the executive directors of the Texas Catholic Conference and Texas Impact, reminded Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus that “[a]s people of faith, we are called to provide affordable and accessible health care coverage for our sick and dispossessed brothers and sisters.”

“Failing to care for the poor and vulnerable unnecessarily increases sickness, premature death, and needless suffering. It would result in the unnecessary, untimely deaths of an estimated 8,400 low-income Texans every year,” the letter stated.

Read the letter here. Looks like all the bad GOP policy decisions of the last decade are starting to come home to roost.

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