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Editorial: Stop playing politics with Texans' health

By Longview News-Journal
Sept. 11, 2013 at 11 p.m.


A recent U.S. Census report reminded us of a fact about Texas of which no Texan should be proud.

The <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/local/titus-county-s-uninsured-rate-tops-statewide-average/article_e07ce784-9872-5a79-8add-02e4c3eb07f6.html" target="_blank">report</a> confirmed, <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/local/report-shows-of-nation-s-most-uninsured-counties-in-et/article_d7443a87-dbe9-5aff-85c4-ccb54e9288d2.html" target="_blank">again</a>, that Texas is No. 1 when it comes to the percentage of its population without health insurance. Texas tops the nation with 25.7 percent uninsured.

That's worse than it has to be, if not for politics.

An estimated 1.5 million of the Texans without coverage could get it if the state would expand Medicaid to poor adults as part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislature have declined, though the federal government would pay 100 percent of expanded coverage for the first three years and the state share is capped at 10 percent thereafter. In Texas, it could amount to $100 billion in matching funds during the next decade.

Hospitals and most physicians support the expansion. They understand the need, particularly in rural areas. Economists have <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/opinion/forum/perryman-ignoring-medicaid-expansion-not-rational-for-texas/article_fb349e51-b9af-55ed-89ef-58c543f886d4.html" target="_blank">said</a> not doing it is irrational. Perry and others, though, keep telling us they have a better plan. We're still waiting to hear what that might be.

The fact is there is no plan, beyond the foolish notion that if they continue to dig in their heels, Obamacare will go away. As we've <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/opinion/editorials/move-on-obamacare-now-a-reality-time-for-perry-to/article_7ccefc82-872f-565f-9189-15fe98cf68cc.html" target="_blank">said before</a>: It won't. Now there's <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/blogs/potomac_in_the_pines/cruz-not-enough-votes-to-make-good-on-obamacare-shutdown/article_a71d0f00-0e75-11e3-803f-0019bb2963f4.html" target="_blank">a notion</a> that de-funding it will lead to its demise. That, too, is snake oil.

If you're among the "I have mine, let them get their own" crowd on health coverage, another recent report might interest you. This one indicates your cost of insurance will increase because of the state's refusal to expand Medicaid.

Rates for individuals purchasing private coverage could jump between 8 percent and 10 percent in Texas and other states where political leaders have decided against expanding Medicaid for the poor. The reason, according to the RAND Corp. research: Such states will force more lower-income people into the individual insurance market. Because they are generally less healthy than more affluent people, costs will rise. That will force a 9.3 percent increase in premiums for all 3 million Texans who will be enrolled in the individual market by 2016, the research indicates.

We're not in favor of all that Obamacare entails. But we are in favor of a fiscally responsible government, one that shows more concern for Texans than for partisan politics. Unfortunately, we see no evidence of that from a government that continues to ignore opportunities to help poor Texans who can't afford coverage, not to worry about driving up costs for those who can - and to claim doing nothing is the smart path.

It's shameful.

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