Good Conscience and Common Sense

Last week, despite previously opposing Medicaid expansion for his state, Florida Governor Rick Scott bowed to reality and common sense: he said Florida will participate in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Scott said that he “could not in good conscience deny the uninsured access to care.” As a result of Scott’s decision, about 1 million Floridians who are currently uninsured will now have health care access through Medicaid.

Scott is not alone in reaching the conclusion he did. Florida joins Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and North Dakota – all states with Republican governors – in saying it will opt into Medicaid expansion, drawing down billions of dollars they are entitled to under federal law and dramatically reducing their uninsured population in the process.

Do you notice a rather large state with a GOP governor missing from this list?

There is not a state in the country that would benefit more – both in the total number of dollars received and in reduction in the total number of uninsured – — than Texas. Scott’s decision gives me some hope that if we keep up the pressure on our own Republican leadership and appeal to both good conscience and common sense, Texas will also join the ranks of states who decide to expand Medicaid.

These other states have already figured out what our state leadership has not or is unwilling to admit – that Medicaid expansion is good for the states and good for the country. As a result of the ACA, Texas will receive more than $100 billion from the federal government in exchange for investing just $15 billion in state funds over the next decade. According to Governor Perry’s own administration, 1.8 million Texans will receive health care coverage under the expansion, and more than 90 percent of it will be paid for by the federal government. And if the health care argument is not enough, consider the economic impact: according to a study by the Perryman group, Texas will see a positive economic impact of $67.9 billion during fiscal 2014-17. Closer to home, a report commissioned by Texas Impact and Methodist Healthcare Ministries shows that Medicaid expansion will generate $14 million in new, local tax revenue in House District 101 alone from 2014 through 2017.

Even as we work toward expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, there are some positive changes coming to Texas, no matter what our Republican leaders say. Just this past week in the Insurance Committee, I learned that there are positive elements of the ACA already being implemented . For example, starting in 2014, Medicaid participants will only have to enroll every 12 months, as opposed to six. The assets test, which unfairly penalizes many applying for Medicaid coverage, will also be abolished in 2014. These are important reforms to Medicaid that will help people across our state and in our district, and I am happy to see them taking place.

The stakes are high for Texas. With nearly a quarter of our state’s population without coverage, we have the highest uninsured rate in the nation, a sad fact that costs all of us, whether we have insurance or not. Faith-based, medical, and even business groups are joining in the call to the Republican leadership to do the right thing for Texas and accept Medicaid expansion. I remain hopeful that by speaking up and speaking out, good conscience and common sense will prevail.