Politically palatable?

Posted in Around The State, Health Care at 3:40 pm by wcnews

The news just keeps getting worse for the uninsured in Texas, Texas Uninsured Rate Drifts Further From Other States.

For the fifth straight year, Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country — the 28.8% of adult Texans lacking healthcare coverage in 2012 is the highest for any state since Gallup and Healthways started tracking insurance coverage in January 2008. This widens the gap between Texas and the state with the second-highest uninsured rate in the country, Louisiana (24.0%), to 4.8 percentage points — the largest number separating these two spots on record. Massachusetts continues to have the lowest uninsured rate in the U.S., at 4.5%.

Yes, the Massachusetts of “Romneycare” fame. That’s almost three in ten Texans without health insurance. Here’s the list of the worst 10, starting with Texas.

But we have “a good reglatory climate” here in Texas. Here’s what the Texas Hospital Association had to say about this:

The following statement is a response from the Texas Hospital Association, which may be attributed to Dan Stultz, M.D., FACHE, FACP, THA president/ chief executive officer:

“Uninsured patients still require health care, and a growing uninsured population strains hospitals, taxpayers, and the insured. An uninsured workforce draws additional concern for what it says about the state’s ability to compete. By expanding Medicaid, however, Texas employers can ensure increased access to primary care, which promotes increased workplace efficiency and decreased morbidity and mortality.”

Apparently it’s not quite “politically palatable” yet to insure the uninsured for Texas GOP lawmakers.

Medicaid expansion got its first Capitol hearing Friday, with new numbers revealed and deep divides further exposed between Republicans and Democrats in the Texas House.

But most of the action on Medicaid expansion continues to take place in private meetings among leading Republicans, including members of Gov. Rick Perry’s office, as they search for a politically palatable way to negotiate concessions from the federal government. The primary goal is to insure more low-income Texans without significantly expanding a Medicaid program they consider to be bloated and unsustainable.

Against that backdrop, the House Appropriations Committee hearing had an anticlimactic feel, leaving one key Democrat to question its purpose.

“I just need to know where we’re going,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.

“If this hearing is to put information before us so we can design something in a positive way … then I am more than willing to take the time,” Turner said. “But if this meeting is only for informational purposes so we can say you all came, you spoke, we heard, thank you very much — and nothing is going to move forward — then I got that, and I’m through with it.”

Kyle Janek, head of the Health and Human Services Commission, which administers Medicaid, assured Turner that his agency is not crafting a Medicaid expansion plan, nor would it do so without direction from the Legislature.

What yesterday’s hearing was about was some House GOP lawmakers were trying to make it look like they were doing something on Medicaid expansion, without actually getting anything done. But while they continue to do nothing the situation for the many Texans stays bad or gets worse. How bad does it have to get before expanding Medicaid in Texas becomes politically palatable.

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