These are the people that Rick Perry doesn’t care about.
Jose Gallegos’ company eliminated employee health insurance to save money, so when his gut started hurting and his skin took on a yellow tinge, he resisted seeing a doctor. When he finally went to the emergency room, physicians diagnosed stomach cancer.
Gallegos made too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy his own insurance, so he scraped together what he could, and his wife, Andrea, took on three jobs. Just over a year later, at 41, he died, leaving behind four children.
Two years later, it was Andrea’s turn. A crack and sharp pain in her back drove her to the emergency room, where she learned she had breast cancer. It had snapped one of her vertebra. Now 45, she said the cancer remains in several other vertebrae, but at the moment it’s not spreading.
Families like the Gallegos stand at the center of a debate over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, which could have expanded Medicaid coverage to 1.3 million uninsured Texans. But Republican Gov. Rick Perry has said he will not widen the program because it would cost too much.
“It gets me mad,” Gallegos said. Perry “made a decision without us.”
Nowhere did Obama’s health care law hold more promise than in Texas, which leads the nation in the portion of its population that is uninsured. A quarter of Texans have no coverage, many of them families like the Gallegos who are considered the working poor.
Without a Medicaid expansion, the state’s working poor will continue relying on emergency rooms — the most costly treatment option — instead of primary care doctors. The Texas Hospital Association estimates that care for uninsured patients cost hospitals in the state $4.5 billion in 2010.
So at the 2010 rate, the cost of uninsured people using the emergency room, a cost paid by all of us in county taxes and higher insurance premiums, would be about $45 billion over ten years, as opposed to the $16 billion over ten years that Medicaid expansion would cost. Forget the $100 billion plus that the state would pull down from the feds to subsidize Medicaid expansion, how does this math make any sense?
Republicans have had complete control of state government since 2003, and in that time they have done nothing to deal with the issue of the uninsured in Texas. Indeed, they have made the problem worse by throwing a bunch of kids off CHIP in 2003; we’re still not back to the level of coverage we had before that. Now that the federal government has finally done something about this, they’re digging in their heels and saying NO. They say they want the federal money with no strings attached so their can design their own plan. Even if you believed they had a plan, given their long track record and their public comments about how expensive this all is – made without acknowledging the expenses imposed by their own inaction, of course – there’s no reason to believe their plan would do anywhere near as much as expanding Medicaid as is would do. Yes, it will cost the state some money to do that, money they’re currently making us pay by other means. The Legislature, God help them, may have to figure out a way to pay for it, just as they’re likely going to have to figure out a way to pay for public education again. The state has gotten by for a long time without having to pay for these needs. They’re running out of ways to get out of that obligation. There’s an awful lot of people in this state who have been ignored and made to suffer for a long time who will be a lot better off when that finally happens. Lisa Falkenberg and BOR have more.