Despite the fact that more than 25 percent of Texas’ population is uninsured, Gov. Rick Perry (R) has rejected Obamacare’s optional expansion of the Medicaid program, a move that will deny health coverage to more than 133,000 low-income Texans. In order to pressure him to change his mind, a diverse coalition of community leaders in Dallas — including state lawmakers, interfaith groups, and hospital officials — has partnered to advocate for the Medicaid expansion, arguing that Texas must accept federal funding to extend insurance to thousands of the state’s impoverished residents.
And their work is paying off. Dallas County officials will adopt a resolution today that encourages state lawmakers to expand Medicaid, after El Paso officials adopted a similar resolution yesterday. The coalition hopes that the momentum in support of the optional Obamacare provision will lead other Texas counties to follow suit:
“We’re doing his across the state. The resolution is our strategy…to put pressure on the governor and the Legislature to pass Medicaid expansion,” said Willie Bennett, lead organizer with the Dallas Area interfaith coalition, which helped write the resolution on Medicaid expansion that Dallas County plans to adopt on Tuesday. He said their organization helped craft a similar resolution that the El Paso County Commissioners Court adopted on Monday, and is working with other major counties to also pass resolutions.
Bolstered by Dallas County’s impending decision, the Texas Organizing Project, an advocacy group that has organized hundreds of Texans to support expanding Medicaid, plans to send coalition members to county meetings in Bexar, Harris and Hidalgo counties on Tuesday to testify in favor of local government officials adopting similar resolutions to support Medicaid expansion.
“Working uninsured [Texans] are leading the fight. These are everyday people who work, some of them six days a week, but can’t afford health insurance,” said Durrel Douglas, a spokesman for the Texas Organizing Project.
Texas’ health care system is ranked as the worst in the nation, and the state’s Medicaid program is currently one of the most restrictive — requiring a family of three to earn less than $5,000 per year, far below the federal poverty line, to qualify for public health insurance.
Officials in some of Texas’ largest counties have been frustrated with their governor’s refusal to cooperate with Obamacare for months. Back in August, some county officials investigated the possibility of pursuing their own Medicaid expansions, even if Perry insisted on withholding federal funds to implement a state-wide expansion. But now that the Obama Administration has clarified that states may not set up partial expansions, they’re once again at the mercy of their stubborn governor.
Nevertheless, the Medicaid advocates in Texas are growing, and they hope to change the tide. The wide range of groups involved in the push for the state’s Medicaid expansion include the Texas Hospital Association, the Texas Medical Association, and an interfaith coalition that includes the Texas Catholic Conference.