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Editorial Blind spot

November 12, 2018

Gov. Greg Abbott shouldn’t be getting all giddy about a double-digit victory in his bid to serve a second term. After all, his little-known Democratic opponent, Lupe Valdez, pulled down 43 percent of the vote with very little cash to campaign and no discernible message to propel voters to the polls.

The governor should instead consider that he likely would have lost if voters had understood how his misguided efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act in Texas had risked their health.

Abbott had the audacity during his lone debate with Valdez to brag that Texas has lowered the number of uninsured adults and children by more than 20 percent since he took office. He undoubtedly knows that decline was in spite of him, not because of him. It’s largely due to Texans obtaining insurance through the ACA.

The governor also refuses to admit that Texas continues to lead the nation with the highest rate of uninsured residents — 17 percent, according to last year’s census figures. The uninsured rate would go down if Texas joined the ACA expansion of Medicaid, but Abbott has refused to do that.

When it was pointed out that the federal government would pay nearly all of the cost to expand Medicaid, Abbott argued that the nation’s increasing debt might lead to less Medicaid funding in future years, which could leave Texas holding the bag.

That’s certainly possible, but pondering Washington’s spending habitsisn’t Abbott’s job. Leave federal budgets to Congress and the president. The governor of Texas should concern himself with the future of Texans who can’t afford health insurance.

Medicaid provides health services to more than 4 million Texans a month, according to the Texas Hospital Association. The need is greater than that. The Texas Medical Association calls the state “the uninsured capital of the United States.” More than 4.3 million Texans, including 623,000 children, lack health insurance.

Other states have gotten the message. Thirty-seven have expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. Meanwhile, Idaho, Nebraska and Utah voted to expand in Tuesday’s elections and Kansas, Maine and Wisconsin elected Democratic governors who plan to expand Medicaid in their states. One telling congressional outcome in Virginia saw a novice Democrat who supported the ACA, Abigail Spanberger, oust Republican Dave Brat, who famously won the seat in 2014 by opposing the ACA.

The tide has turned. Surveys show Americans, including Texans, support the ACA now that the anti-Obama politics associated with it have faded. Abbott should stop playing political games with people’s health. There’s no good reason, other than obstinacy, not to expand Medicaid in Texas.

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