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Steve Love: Do the Right Thing and Expand Medicaid

After the maternal health expansion went into effect in March, legislators have the opportunity to help Texas join the 40 other states that have expanded Medicaid.
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It was a day of celebration. On June 16, 2023, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 12 to extend postpartum Medicaid health coverage for mothers to a full year. This is a huge increase since previous coverage was for only 60 days. We want to thank Governor Abbott and our state legislature for this action going into effect on March 1.

Data from the March of Dimes reflects approximately 50 percent of new Texas mothers have coverage through Medicaid. This is significant because African American women have the highest percentage of maternal mortality in Texas. Hopefully, this bill will decrease postpartum adverse health outcomes.

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Is there more we can do to improve the health of our Texas residents? Of course there is, and it’s time we improved the health of more than 1.5 million people. Simply put, Texas needs to expand Medicaid. It will reduce the number of uninsured, decrease emergency room visits, make a healthier workforce and improve business productivity. Most importantly, it will help low-income individuals with healthcare expenses so personal funds can be used for food, clothing and family needs. 

But the benefits would not end there. Expanding Medicaid would help financially struggling rural hospitals, as so many have already closed in Texas. Current indigent care write-offs could be replaced partially with Medicaid reimbursement. The Perryman Group has done extensive research and discovered the federal payment (90 percent) would expand health care spending generating gains in business activity, reduce uncompensated care freeing up private funds and the coverage would reduce morbidity and mortality.

The Perryman Group also found that for every dollar the state spends expanding health insurance coverage, $1.78 is returned in state government revenue with $1.53 to local governments. Medicaid expansion is good for business and for low-income individuals. For example, in Texas we would extend the postpartum twelve-month coverage to even more women if we expanded Medicaid.

A 2020 poll conducted by the Episcopal Health Foundation reflected almost 70 percent of our state’s residents believe Texas should expand Medicaid. We are now among a very small minority as 40 of our U.S. states have expanded Medicaid. Every year we refuse to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act, and it is now 14 and counting, our state falls further behind as our residents become sicker and unhealthier. We have left billions of dollars on the table that could have addressed healthcare issues within our uninsured population, which is the highest in the nation at approximately 20 percent.

We again thank our Governor and state legislators for enacting House Bill 12. Let’s keep the momentum going to help make Texas a healthier and happier state. We can do this in a spirit of collaboration with all stakeholders. Let’s do the right thing.

Steve Love is the president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. For more than 50 years, the DFW Hospital Council has united North Texas hospital and industry leaders to advance healthcare and advocate for the dozens of hospitals in our region.

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