Texas still lags in Medicaid expansion
If you think that Texas Republicans will never agree to the expansion of Medicaid, you may be correct. But it’s worth noting that in Tuesday’s elections, voters in three states almost as red as Texas did just that. Idaho, Montana and Nebraska are about as far from blue coastal states as you can get, but voters in those states approved ballot initiatives that will finally bring more health care to their low-income residents through expanded Medicaid.
They key word in that previous sentence was “voters.” Those states did not expand Medicaid through legislative action. Presumably their Republican lawmakers view that proposal with the same skepticism — or disdain — that Texas legislators do.
But out in the towns and farming areas of those states, real people saw a real need for better health care. Medicaid is not perfect — no government program is — but it’s better than nothing for someone who is sick and hurting and wants to get better. In those three states, about a third of a million people will soon have something that many other people take for granted.
The new governor in Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly, campaigned energetically on a pledge to expand Medicaid in that Republican-dominated state and bring health care to 150,000 people who don’t have it now.
Clearly, something is happening — and has been happening — in conservative states that generally distrust Washington. Other red states have approved Medicaid expansion, and now Texas is just one of 14 that have stubbornly refused. That’s not a good group to be in.
Worse yet, leaders like Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick don’t have any alternative plans to bring health care to low-income adults who need it. Yet the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House means that any more schemes to undermine or even repeal Obamacare won’t go anywhere.
It’s time for Texas Republicans to listen to virtually every group in Texas representing doctors, nurses or hospitals and do something to expand health care for people who desperately need it.
State leaders have been good at saying no to Medicaid expansion because it’s linked to the dreaded Obamacare. Now they need to say yes to something else. The ball is in their court on this issue, and they need to deliver something tangible in the new legislative session that begins in January. If they don’t, they will probably drive more Texans to support the Democratic approach to health care, which is to at least try something.
Texas Republicans won’t want that to happen, and they can avoid it. But they must act, and soon. Countless Texans without health care are awaiting their response.