After years of trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act, Texas lawmakers are suddenly embracing President Obama’s signature domestic policy accomplishment. On Thursday, the Texas Tribune reported that the state is shuttering a state-based health care program and encouraging Texans to sign-up for coverage in the federally-run health care exchange.
Texas’ high risk pool program, which opened in 1998, provides coverage to individuals and families with pre-existing conditions who couldn’t find insurance in the individual health care market. But since the ACA’s exchanges began enrolling beneficiaries, the state deemed the program obsolete, arguing that Texans could find a better deal in the federally-run exchange:
The state has deemed the high-risk pool obsolete, as the Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies participating in the federal marketplace, which launched on Oct. 1, from denying coverage to Texans with pre-existing conditions. Gov. Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 1367 in June, scheduling the pool’s abolishment.
The pool will close Jan. 1, and the 23,000 people currently participating in the pool must sign up for coverage on the insurance exchange by Dec. 15 or find coverage elsewhere to avoid a lapse in care.
The shift may help beneficiaries — state health experts project that “people are going to have many more options and many better options in the marketplace “ — but it undermines Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) entire health care philosophy and contradicts the GOP’s claim that states are best suited to take care of their uninsured populations.
Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, for instance, Perry supported complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act and suggested that states should take the lead in crafting health care policy. “If we can get the federal government out of our business in the states when it comes to health care, we’ll come up with ways to deliver more health care to more people cheaper than what the federal government is mandating today,” Perry said during a 2011 GOP primary debate. Two years later, he appears to have changed his mind.
In June, Perry also signed a Republican-backed bill that requires the Texas Department of State Health Services to inform individuals applying for certain state health services about “private health care insurance coverage and the health insurance exchange.”