Perry Proposed A Bi-National Health Insurance Plan With Mexico In 2001

Gov. Perry with then-Mexican President Vincente Fox.

The ghosts of Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) more moderate past have come back to haunt him in recent days, particularly when it comes to health care.

In 2001 at a border summit in south Texas, Perry spoke optimistically about the prospects for a “bi-national health insurance” program that would cover both U.S. and Mexican residents along the border. He also praised the Texas legislature’s bill to increase funding for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Given that Perry now considers Medicaid to be unconstitutional, the speech reads like it comes from another world — or an entirely different person:

There are other challenges that require a unified approach, especially in the area of health care. […] I urged legislators to pass a telemedicine pilot program that will enable, through technology, a sick border resident of limited financial means to receive care from a specialist hundreds of miles away.

But the effort to combat disease and illness requires greater cooperative efforts between our two nations. It is a simple truth that disease knows no boundaries. […] We have much to gain if we work together to expand preventative care, and treat maladies unique to this region.

Legislation authored by border legislators Pat Haggerty and Eddie Lucio establishes an important study that will look at the feasibility of bi-national health insurance. This study recognizes that the Mexican and U.S. sides of the border compose one region, and we must address health care problems throughout that region. That’s why I am also excited that Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar is working on an initiative that could extend the benefits of telemedicine to individuals living on the Mexican side of the border.

In the speech, Perry also extols the need for more preventative medicine and brags about how the legislature “expanded access to Medicaid for more low-income children” and increased Medicaid funding by $4 billion. His past praise for a “unified,” transnational health care program is a stark contrast with the view he expresses in his recent book Fed Up, where he posits that the Constitution forbids a “federally operated program of pensions” and “a federally operated program of health care.”

The remarks paint a refreshing picture of an enlightened, compassionate Perry who is informed about the benefits of preventative health care and Medicaid and has sympathy for poor border residents and undocumented immigrants.

The Perry campaign is, predictably, trying to downplay the speech. Campaign spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger tried to distance Perry from the proposal, saying, “A bill was passed by the Legislature that authorized a study to look into this issue, which ultimately concluded there were numerous barriers to accomplishing that idea, and the Legislature took no further action on this concept.”

Perry has also faced scrutiny this week for a 1993 letter he wrote as Texas Agricultural Commissioner praising then-First Lady Hillary Clinton for her efforts to reform the health care system. That legislation was brought down by mass GOP opposition and “Hillarycare” is still derided by conservatives as the precursor to “Obamacare.”