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December 12th, 2012:

All or nothing on Medicaid expansion

Partial Medicaid expansion, in whatever the form, will not be an option.

It's constitutional - deal with it

“Consistent with the law, there is not an option for enhanced match for a partial or phased in Medicaid expansion,” acting Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Marilyn Tavenner told reporters on a call Monday.

The administration’s reasoning goes like this: The federal government was giving states a really, really good deal on the Medicaid expansion. It was footing the entire bill for the newly eligible enrollees for three years. To put that in context, the feds usually chip in about half or two-thirds of a state’s Medicaid costs.

Congress, White House officials say, gave states that really high funding in the service of a very specific goal: Ensuring all Americans have access to insurance options.

“The law contemplated that every American would have a way to get health insurance coverage,” says Medicaid administrator Cindy Mann. “The Medicaid expansion to 133 percent was a method identified in the law to do that.”

States that don’t expand all the way up to that level, Mann contends, wouldn’t be complying with the spirit of the law. They wouldn’t offer all their residents a way to purchase affordable coverage. And if they’re not going to do that, White House says they don’t deserve the extra funding.

“The statute contemplates, with the enhanced match, that states will fully comply with the provisions of the law,” Mann says.

What this means for Texas is that any talk about counties doing Medicaid expansion on their own is now officially a non-starter. There wasn’t much momentum for that anyway, just some talk that mostly came from Bexar County, but now it no longer matters. Until such time as the state of Texas gets on board with full Medicaid expansion, we will continue to lead the nation in the number of uninsured residents, and we will do serious damage to public hospitals unless the Lege decides to fill the $2 billion hole that the feds will no longer cover but that Medicaid expansion was supposed to deal with. I’m not holding my breath for either of them to happen. Nothing will change until our leadership changes.

What will Doggett do?

Does Rep. Lloyd Doggett want his old district back or not?

Rep. Lloyd Doggett

The congressional and legislative districts used in this year’s elections were temporary maps drawn by panel of federal judges in San Antonio. The maps were designed to be used this year, while the courts continued to sort out various legal challenges to maps drawn by the Legislature.

Those challenges include efforts by a group of Travis County plaintiffs and a collection of civil rights groups who accused the Republican-controlled Legislature of creating racially and ethnically discriminatory maps. Republicans denied the allegations, and the case is ongoing.

The Travis County plaintiffs weren’t specific in court documents about creating a Travis County-centered district for Doggett, said Michael Li, a Democratic fundraiser and redistricting expert. “But that was the crux of their argument in the first round of redistricting, and it very well could be again,” Li said.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, an Austin Democrat and one of the Travis County plaintiffs, said in an interview that he would like to see a Travis County district in which minorities would be able to elect the candidates of their choice, like they have with Doggett.

“I’d like to see as much of Travis County as possible in one congressional district,” Rodriguez said. “I would like to see us having one unified voice in D.C.”

Rodriguez said he believes Doggett feels the same way, but in a statement Doggett said: “I remain ready for whatever Republicans throw at me next. I am really not concerned with ‘what if,’ I am working on ‘what now’ is needed to serve our families.”

I don’t remember, and the story doesn’t say, if Doggett fought to have CD25 restored as a mostly-Travis County district after the 2003 re-redistricting. When it was redrawn for the 2006 election, it was a byproduct of CD23 being declared illegal. My guess is that Doggett will stay quiet, at least publicly, about this. He’s already proven he can win in a non-Travis-centric district, so it’s not clear what he’d gain from advocating for CD25 to be put back together. It won’t surprise me if he expresses an opinion behind the scenes, or if he ultimately has some influence over whatever the Travis County intervenors do, but I seriously doubt he’ll be caught talking about it out loud. On a related note, Texas Redistricting reviews the briefs submitted by the intervenors asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the State of Texas’ appeal or, alternatively, to summarily affirm the decision of the district denying preclearance of the redistricting maps drawn by the Texas Legislature. We’ll see how long it takes to get a ruling.

And it begins in SD06

I’m only going to do this kind of post once, because I agree with Rick Noriega that the special election in SD06 needs to be about the issues and leadership, not just for that district but for the state as a whole. I understand that in an election where there are two well-qualified candidates who are essentially indistinguishable on matters of policy that personality and muckraking are going to be at the fore. I’ve been through a primary or two, I know how this goes. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, or to act as an amplifier for the charges and counter-charges. So let’s do this and get it over with, and get back to what matters:

Sylvia Garcia sent out a press release yesterday morning announcing that she would make available her tax returns going back to 1998 (her first year in elected office) and calling on Rep. Carol Alvarado to do the same, and also to disclose her consulting clients. The latter is a reference to this Patti Hart column, which reported that Rep. Alvarado earned $24K doing work for HISD on the bond referendum.

Rep. Alvarado subsequently sent out her own press release that echoed Noriega’s call for an issues-oriented campaign, promised that she “will make appropriate personal disclosures at the appropriate time”, and made an accusation of her own about Garcia not paying her taxes on time.

You can follow all the links and see what there is to see. I’m sure there will be more like this to come, but as I said I don’t plan to write about it if I can help it.

City settles with Treasures, county still on the case

Noted for the record.

Martha approves of pole dancing

Prominent strip club Treasures, hauled into court as an alleged public nuisance and haven for crime by city and county attorneys seven months ago, has agreed to put $100,000 in a nuisance abatement fund as part of a settlement with the city of Houston, City Attorney David Feldman said.

Harris County attorneys, however, say they plan to proceed with the case. A trial was scheduled to start Monday, but has been delayed until February. If State District Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan declares Treasures a public nuisance, the club would close for a year.

The suit, filed jointly by the two governments in May, seeks to close the club at 5647 Westheimer for allegedly harboring prostitution, drugs, illegal weapons and sexual assaults. The club’s attorneys deny the allegations.

Feldman said the terms of the settlement are to be kept confidential to the extent possible. The Houston Chronicle late Monday submitted a Texas Public Information Act request for the settlement agreement.

Feldman said the agreement allows the city to achieve its aims in filing the suit, and then some.

“The parties have committed to work together to abate any nuisance activities which might occur in Treasures and have joined together to eliminate certain illegal activities in the city of Houston, including human trafficking,” Feldman said. “The agreement … puts procedures, verification and a fund in place that provide an opportunity for abatement in the short and the long term, which goes beyond what litigation might achieve.”


The County Attorney’s Office, which technically is representing the state of Texas in the suit, remains unsatisfied.

First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke said the city’s decision to settle does not weaken his case.

“The idea that this agreement would remain secret is preposterous,” O’Rourke said, adding his office was not even given a copy of the agreement. “This case is going to trial. We will get them.”

I’m not qualified to address the secrecy question – it seems strange to me, but I’m not a lawyer – so I don’t really have a point to make. I just figured that after all the drama and intrigue, I ought to at least stick around to see how it all turns out. I suppose after funneling all that money to his opponent, Vince Ryan has no particular incentive to be accommodating. Along those lines, I will simply note that Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan, who was also targeted by Team Treasures, was the top vote-getter among Harris County judicial candidates, with 581,309. Her opponent, Bud Wiesedeppe, was the low scorer among judicial candidates, with 550,095 votes. There’s nothing illegal or unethical about a party to a legal action targeting the prosecutor or the judge politically. But perhaps the outcomes here will provide a small measure of disincentive for the future.