Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and the state’s two Republican senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, joined forces at the state capitol on Monday afternoon to reiterate their opposition to expanding the Medicaid program under Obamacare. Despite the fact that Texas could add about 1.5 million low-income people to its Medicaid rolls if lawmakers opted to expand the program, the state’s GOP leaders still refuse to do so.
“Seems to me April Fool’s Day is the perfect day to discuss something as foolish as Medicaid expansion, and to remind everyone that Texas will not be held hostage by the Obama administration’s attempt to force us into the fool’s errand of adding more than a million Texans to a broken system,” Perry said of the health reform law’s initiative to ensure that poor Americans have access to the medical care they need by standardizing Medicaid eligibility levels across the nation.
More than 25 percent of Texans don’t have health care, one of the highest rates of uninsurance in the United States. That’s partly because 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. But the Republicans in the state want to make it clear that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Although eight other GOP governors have now endorsed the health law’s optional Medicaid expansion, the GOP lawmakers in Texas are happy to buck that trend. “I am proud that Gov. Perry and other Texas leaders are standing strong to oppose Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, while so many other states are giving in,” Cruz said at Monday’s press conference. Earlier in the day, Cruz suggested that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is so expensive that it will prevent states from fully funding their prison systems and keeping violent criminals off the street.
Not everyone in Texas agrees with the Republican Party’s decision to reject Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, however. A counter event — spearheaded by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), and his identical twin, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro (D) — followed the governor’s press conference, as advocates for health care reform spoke out about the importance of expanding Texas’ social safety net. The Castro brothers were joined by a diverse coalition of faith-based organizations, labor groups, the Texas Hospital Association, and other Democratic lawmakers, all of whom have been lobbying for Medicaid expansion over the past several months.