Ellis: Perry Affordable Care Act Plan Short-Sighted and Not the Final Word
(Austin, Texas)—State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), released the following statement regarding Governor Rick Perry's announcement that Texas will not enact key elements of the landmark Affordable Care Act, despite ranking near the bottom in nearly every major health category.
"I am extremely disappointed in Governor Perry's announcement that he plans to do nothing to implement key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would provide access to health insurance for millions of hard-working Texans. His plan is short-sighted and, thankfully, not the final word. Next year, the legislature can take steps to implement health exchanges and expand access to Medicaid, and I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this happen.
"This issue is too important to let politics and rhetoric rule the day. Texas leads the nation in percentage uninsured, has one of the highest poverty and food insecurity rates, and has vast shortages of doctors, dentists, and nurses. In fact, Texas ranks at or near the bottom in nearly every important health care statistic you can name, and just chose to cut $10 billion more from our health care budget, including under-funding Medicaid by about $4 billion, plus deeper cuts to already-minimal services. We have an historic opportunity to finally do something about these dismal numbers, but, instead, we are choosing to stand in the doorway and say 'no.'
"That is not good enough.
"The simple fact is that we have to do something to address this crisis. Thankfully, Texans are already benefiting from the Affordable Care Act. Health plans must now spend 80 to 85 percent of every premium dollar on health care, insurers can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, young adults can be covered under their parents plan until 26 years, and tax credits are available to small businesses to help cover premium costs. More than 120 of Texas' largest employers have received over $445 million in federal support to make early retiree health coverage more affordable. In addition, 2.2 million Texas seniors in Medicare received preventive services or check-ups with no co-pay, and Texans saved $135 million on prescription drugs as a result of closing the Medicare prescription drug 'donut hole.' But, the greatest gains will come in 2014 when approximately 2 million more uninsured Texans could gain coverage through Medicaid and CHIP, but Texas must opt in to the expansion and that is now going to be a big fight.
"The ACA was intended to extend coverage to the majority of individuals, most notably portions of the most vulnerable populations that are currently excluded from Medicaid coverage because they do not have children and are not pregnant or disabled.
"This Medicaid expansion will provide coverage for low-income adults who are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($14,856 per individual or $30,657 for a family of four), are less than 65 years old, and do not otherwise qualify for Medicaid. For these individuals, Medicaid will mean the opportunity to have a primary doctor and continuity in care reducing their reliance on the expensive care currently provided in emergency rooms. For this expansion, Texas will receive a 100 percent match for the first three years and gradually reducing to 90 percent of funding thereafter.
"Individuals at or above 100 percent of poverty will have the ability to purchase health insurance with subsidies through a federal health exchange or one-stop shop for health insurance, even if Texas decides not to run its own exchange, ensuring these populations will have access to quality, affordable health insurance. Unfortunately for most individuals below 100 percent FPL who are not currently covered by Medicaid there is no safeguard, so we must decide to do the right thing and enact laws to protect these Texans.
"Critics of the Affordable Care Act constantly say 'Texas knows how to take care of Texans better than Washington.' Well, it is time to prove it. Instead of just saying 'no', let's see a plan to provide more Texans with insurance. No more politics -- let's see a plan that actually helps Texans.
"Having access to quality, affordable health insurance is a fundamental human right and not a privilege. The Supreme Court has spoken and the Affordable Care Act is now officially the law of the land. It is long past time to remove narrow politics from the health care debate and focus on truly improving health of women, children, and all Americans. We can and must do better."