Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has decided that the easiest way to cope with the number of uninsured people in his state — one out of every four Texans lacks an insurance plan — is to pretend that there is no problem at all.
Today, Perry announced that Texas would turn down millions in federal funding offered under the Affordable Care Act to expand the state’s Medicaid program, despite the 25 percent of Texans without insurance. But pressed by Fox News anchor Jenna Lee, Perry couldn’t come up with a good way to cover those who don’t have insurance in the state.
Instead, Perry danced around the question and argued that the government had misrepresented the quality of care in Texas in a recent report that ranked the state last. He went on to say that the Medicaid expansion isn’t about getting coverage for the people who need it — it’s about freedom:
LEE: So let’s talk about solutions then. According to a new federal government report, I know you’ve seen this, Texas has ranked last when it comes to health services provided by the state. I know your folks have come out and aggressively said, ‘Hey, this is not something that we necessarily agree with for obvious reasons.’ But the facts are one out of four Texans is without health insurance, one out of four Texans is on Medicare or Medicaid. The health crisis, the big cris for the country and for your state, what is the solution?
PERRY: Well, let me address this issue. You don’t have people come from all over the globe to the state of Texas for their health care. We’ve got some of the finest health care in the world whether it’s MD Anderson or UT Southwest, some incredible health care facilities in the country. So the idea that this federal government which doesn’t like Texas to begin with to pick and choose and come up with some data and say somehow Texas has the worst health care system in the world is just fake and false on its face. The real issue here is about freedom.
Perry’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion is for tragic the state’s uninsured, but it’s not surprising — he has previously said that there is “nothing in the constitution” that allows Medicaid to exist, and claimed “everyone in America has access to health care.” But despite his rhetoric, Perry is no stranger to using federal funds in the state. In November, the governor took time off his failed presidential campaign to celebrate the expansion of MD Anderson, a multi-million medical center he regularly cites as exemplary, but one that is also the beneficiary of millions of dollars in federal grants.
The governor’s only other solution for helping those without insurance is to block grant the Medicaid program. But analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy priority found that block-granting Medicaid would lead to huge cuts in the program’s funding, a larger cost burden on health care providers and beneficiaries.