AUSTIN, Texas — Should voters have a say in whether Texas expands Medicaid coverage?
- Democrats pushing for Medicaid expansion
- Texas has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act
- Republican lawmaker is pushing measure to allow uninsured Texans to buy-in to coverage
Democratic state lawmakers are pushing for their colleagues to support such a measure this session.
It comes as two dozen groups descended on the Texas State Capitol Monday to call for change in a state that leads the nation in the number of uninsured.
"I was raised by a single mom so I grew up on CHIP and Medicaid," Marjorie Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said she makes too much to qualify for the joint state-federal program that provides health care to low-income people, but as a part-time worker and full time student, she can’t afford to pay for health insurance.
"It only covers my living expenses, so having to choose between groceries and utilities versus healthcare has been kind of like the ultimatum I've been facing," Gonzalez said.
Now, a number of Democratic state lawmakers have filed measures that call for Medicaid expansion to be placed on a future ballot.
Any measure to expand Medicaid has been a non-starter for Republican state leaders. They argue it would increase future health care costs to the state.
Republican Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, is pushing another option to allow uninsured Texans to buy-in to coverage with what they could afford and then receive match-funding to help make-up the rest of the cost.
"There is a pretty generous match from the federal government for this. A 90 percent match that theoretically, is in perpetuity,” he said. “So, it's a cost-effective way to deal with a population for which there is really not a good solution as far as health insurance goes."
Zerwas said his idea is a good compromise, rather than fully funding what he calls an entitlement program.
"I think we could do it. In fact, I know we could do it. Other states have done it," said Zerwas.
Healthcare advocates say a healthier Texas shouldn't include a compromise.
"Having healthcare is a human right and it should be accessible," said Gonzalez.
Texas is one of only 14 states that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act despite strong public support.
Other states have also recently put expansion on the ballot.
Last November voters in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska approved measures for expansion.
Maine did the same in 2017.