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Insurance & Benefits

Steve Love: Is Expanding Medicaid Wishful Thinking?

As additional states consider expanding insurance to the working poor, DFW hospitals want Texas to do so.
By Steve Love |
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Courtesy: iStock iStock

As the end of the COVID-19 health emergency comes to an end, millions of Americans will be forced off Medicaid rolls that were allowed to stay without verification during the health emergency. Given that dynamic and November’s election, multiple states that had not yet expanded Medicaid are considering doing so. The Texas Legislative session begins next month, where Medicaid expansion will once again be a major topic of discussion. The following is a post on that matter from Steve Love, president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council.

As the Major League Baseball season was winding down, I recently visited Atlanta with my eight-year-old grandson Owen to attend the playoff series between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. The Braves swept the Mets, but unfortunately they would not advance to the World Series.

During the games, I would make comments to Owen such as, “I hope this batter hits a homerun,” or “We need to turn a double-play.” In most cases, I was usually wrong. In the final game of the series, Owen turned to me and said “Pa Pa, you wish for things that probably are not going to happen.”

I had to laugh because he was so right. On the plane ride home, I considered Owen’s remark and how it might also apply to my job in healthcare. Immediately, I was reminded of Medicaid expansion in Texas, or the lack thereof. The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 expanding Medicaid. In June 2012, the Supreme Court ruled Medicaid expansion was an option left up to the states.

The federal government funds 90 percent of the expansion. And yet we continue to pay federal income taxes for funding Texas steadfastly refuses to accept. Because of this unfortunate decision, we are helping to fund expansion in other states such as Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, but not for our own residents.

This fact has always surprised me. The state has foregone billions of dollars to assist some of our most vulnerable Texans. Because of this adverse decision, Texas leads the nation with approximately 20 percent of our population having no health insurance.

Several economic studies have determined Medicaid expansion makes sound business sense and our state is suffering tremendous losses in quality of life and economic impact because of its continued insistence in maintaining this perplexing form of independence.

Medicaid expansion can assist with prevention and earlier intervention in chronic illnesses and supports a healthier and more productive workforce. Additionally, patients can receive medical treatment in the right setting at a lower cost rather than utilizing overwhelmed emergency departments.

The majority of states in the U.S. understand these advantages and have expanded Medicaid. Only a handful of states, including Texas, have not taken advantage of this outstanding opportunity that will surely improve the health of approximately 1.5 million of our residents.

We thank our legislative leaders for their public service as they prepare for the upcoming session in January. We hope they will keep an open mind about the positive economic and healthcare impact that would result from Medicaid expansion in 2023. Now is the time to help our most vulnerable Texans but, as my grandson Owen said, I might be wishing for things that are probably not going to happen. I will continue to wish otherwise.

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