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Abbott’s health care small ball

Is that all there is?

Increased funding for preventive care and luring medical professionals to Texas are at the center of gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott’s health care plan, unveiled at St. Joseph’s Women’s Medical Center here on Wednesday.

The Republican attorney general, running to replace Gov. Rick Perry, unveiled a proposal that includes a $50 million budget increase for women’s health programs, additional funding for medical school residency slots in Texas, loan forgiveness for aspiring doctors who practice in underserved areas and compensation for doctors who provide care via telephone.

Abbott said the cost of the entire plan would be $175 million every two years, but said it could actually save more than it costs. “It may actually reduce the cost of health care,” he said.

The left-leaning policy group Progress Texas criticized Abbott’s proposal because it does not include Medicaid expansion to cover impoverished adults, a tenet of federal health reform that Texas’ Republican leadership has staunchly opposed. Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation, with about one in every four people lacking health insurance in 2012, according to U.S. Census data. About one million Texans could qualify for Medicaid coverage if the state were to expand the program under current federal guidelines, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Texans don’t need more small ideas from Abbott — we need and deserve a comprehensive plan for insuring those 1 million Texans, and we need it yesterday,” said Ed Espinoza, the group’s executive director, in response to the candidate’s proposal.

Abbott’s Democratic rival, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Ft. Worth, has endorsed Medicaid expansion.

There’s nothing here that I find objectionable, but let’s be honest – it ain’t much, especially compared to Medicaid expansion and the million or so people it would help. The 2011 cuts to women’s health and family planning services has done such extensive and lasting damage to patients and providers in the state that anything short of a pledge to re-establish a clinic for every one that had to close is inadequate. Even that doesn’t make up for the inconvenience and hassle of finding new doctors and establishing new routines, but it at least makes the attempt. This is little more than a band-aid. Not a surprise, given Abbott’s known priorities, just nothing to write home about.

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