What’s The Matter With Texas?

It always surprises me when politicians continue to espouse positions that contradict and undermine the interests of their constituents even when there is no clear personal political gain from relitigating a fight that’s already been won by the other side. Consider this editorial from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) in which she reiterates her strong opposition to the individual health insurance mandate:

Late last year, when the Senate was debating the health care reform bill, my colleagues and I protested countless objectionable provisions that would undermine the quality and raise the costs of health care in America. One of the most troubling provisions was the individual mandate which would require that all citizens purchase health insurance. The trouble with the individual mandate is that the federal government doesn’t actually have the constitutional authority to force Americans to buy something that they may decide they don’t want or need.

We fought hard against this mandate. Insurance regulations are the historic and constitutional prerogative of the states. During the debate, I called for a vote to raise this critical constitutional issue on the floor of the Senate. Unfortunately, my attempt was defeated on a party-line vote.

If anyone may decide they do “want or need” health insurance coverage it’s more than likely to be a Texan. Nearly 26 percent of Texans lack coverage — the national average is just 15.4 percent — meaning there are more uninsured residents in Texas “than there are people in 33 states,” the New York Times noted. Four of Texas’ congressional districts are among the bottom 10 in terms of insurance rates, while thirteen of the state’s districts are in the bottom 30.

One of the chief reasons Texas has such bad insurance rates is that the state has “among the country’s most restrictive Medicaid eligibility thresholds.” Impoverished adults without children are ineligible, for example, while the state has created “burdensome application requirements,” with outmoded computers and inadequate staffing.

Fortunately, Texans will soon benefit from the new law — even over the objections of its representatives. As the New York Times reported, “in Austin, legislative hearings and agency planning sessions proceed” despite the GOP’s (and the governor’s objections. Bureaucrats are applying for federal grants and collaborating with the Obama administration “at the same time that Attorney General Greg Abbott strategizes to eviscerate the law in court.”