This week Democrats in the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry demanding that he explain his decision to not expand Medicaid in his state. Even though the Affordable Care Act allows states to provide more health coverage to their citizens through Medicaid, and the federal government covers all costs of the expansion for three years and at least 90% of the funding in the years following, many states with Republican governors and/or legislatures have refused to take advantage of the provision. With his eyes set on the White House in 2016, Perry has been quite outspoken about his disdain for the ACA. Therefore, his refusal to take advantage of this provision was quite predictable.
Over the past few days, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has taken a beating in the press for his comments regarding his state’s uninsured rate going up. He decided to blame President Obama and the ACA over the rise in uninsured people in his state. Bryant said this despite his own refusal to set up a state health exchange and expand Medicaid in his state. It is estimated that due to Mississippi’s high poverty and unemployment rates, over 300,000 people would be eligible for Medicaid if it were expanded in the state.
Bryant’s comments, along with Perry’s own statements in the past regarding Obamacare and Medicaid, set the stage for the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), to send the letter to Perry. Per Talking Points Memo, Cummings also sent similar letters to Florida Governor Rick Scott and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, both Republicans. The letter to Perry can be read here.
In the letter, Cummings shamed Perry by pointing out that states are able to provide Medicaid to more residents of their states at little to no cost to the states themselves. At the most, the states will only ever have to provide 10% of the funding for the expanded coverage, and even that won’t take effect until 2020. The letter also highlighted the fact that while most Republican governors have rejected Medicaid expansion for purely ideological reasons, the GOP governors who have accepted the expansion in their states have openly praised the benefits. Quotes from Jan Brewer, Chris Christie and John Kasich expressing support for the provision were included in the letter.
Furthermore, the letter also indicated that if Texas expanded Medicaid, over 1.2 million residents of the state would immediately be eligible for free health coverage. The expansion would also provide 59,000 new jobs to the state and tens of billions of dollars in increased federal funding. Currently, Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation at 24.8%, higher than even Mississippi, which is the only state to actually see a rise in the uninsured rate after the implementation of the ACA. Considering that a quarter of his state’s population is without health insurance, Perry should be ashamed. But, he won’t be. He’ll instead hold it up as an object of pride.