Our state has endured a difficult year of COVID-19, not to mention unemployment and the loss of healthcare coverage for many Texas residents. Now is the time for us to strive for healthcare coverage for all Texans.
We ask our Texas legislative leaders to work collaboratively on Medicaid expansion. We now have close to 5.5 million uninsured, a frightening amount boosted by recent job losses due to the ongoing pandemic. The number of uninsured has now climbed to approximately 20 percent, the highest rate in the nation.
Texans are having to pay billions of dollars in federal taxes, with many of those dollars going to neighboring states such as Louisiana, Arkansas, and New Mexico to help fund their own Medicaid expansion. Our state is now effectively surrounded by expansion. Consider this—we are willing to spend our tax dollars on medical coverage for other states but not for our own Texas residents. In a 2020 study, the University of Michigan estimated that 730 Texans die each year because we have refused to expand Medicaid.
Approximately 75 percent of those eligible for Texas Medicaid expansion are living in a family with at least one worker employed in construction, food preparation, and other service industries. According to a study by Texas A&M University, our state would comfortably draw 90 percent, or an increase annually of $5.4 billion dollars, from the federal government with expansion. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: This would create jobs, prevent rural hospital closures, and help reduce pressure on property taxes to help fund healthcare services.
According to the website Cover Texas Now, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report summarized over 400 Medicaid expansion studies. The conclusion was expansion universally contributes to better health outcomes, financial security, and less medical debt. In addition, a 2020 poll by the Episcopal Health Foundation found that 64 percent of Texans support Medicaid expansion.
We thank our state leaders for their excellent work in securing an extension on our Medicaid 1115 Waiver. However, the waiver does not guarantee expansion for certain people caught within a coverage gap just below the poverty line. They have effectively been left without coverage.
According to The Perryman Group, Medicaid expansion would increase health spending and generate more business activity. Furthermore, it would also reduce uncompensated care, releasing public and private funds that could be redirected for other purposes. Finally, if we expand coverage, we reduce morbidity and mortality and increase our state’s productivity.
We thank our legislators for their service on behalf of all Texans. Now is the time to work collaboratively on Medicaid expansion as it makes good economic sense and helps the health of all Texans. We must not make bad business decisions during this 87th Session. Refusing to expand Medicaid, especially after a trying year of COVID-19, is a bad business decision. Now is the time!
Steve Love is the CEO and president of the DFW Hospital Council.