Weatherford Democrat

Viewpoints

July 18, 2012

COLUMN: Medicaid tactic needs revision in state

— Our governor announced that he will not expand Medicaid to cover the 2 million Texans who are so poor they qualify for Medicaid under the new Affordable Healthcare Law. He also said he will not form a private insurance exchange that would provide health insurance for an additional 4 million Texans who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford or have no access to private insurance. His failure to expand Medicaid is totally without financial sanity.

This act is plain stupid, considering the federal government will pay 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years and 90 percent of the cost for the next seven years. That means Texas will pay about $10 billion and the federal government will pay about $112 billion to Texas over the next 10 years.

I know exactly who these uninsured people are. I spent over 20 years as a health insurance agent who failed to provide affordable health insurance for the 6 million people who qualify for these new programs. Contrary to popular belief, they are not shiftless bums living on welfare. They are working families who are self-employed or work for small companies which cannot possibly afford employee group health insurance. Some workers do have group insurance on themselves, but since few small employers contribute to family coverage, they cannot afford to cover their families.

Many older Texans have no idea what family medical insurance costs now. Just a minimal policy could take between one-fourth to one-half of millions of workers monthly take home pay. And if any family member has a serious pre-existing condition that cost could double, if they can find an insurer who will accept them.

The governor’s refusal to form a state private health insurance exchange may be a blessing in disguise for Texas’ 4 million working families. Under the new health insurance law, if a state fails to form and administer one, the federal government will create and administer an exchange. Considering Texas’ incredible mismanagement of current public health programs, I would be overjoyed to see the federal government administer all medical care provided by taxpayers.

We recently had an example of how Texas administers the present Medicaid dental orthodontics program for poor children. It was revealed that Texas had spent as much on children’s orthodontics in a year as all the other 49 states combined. We taxpayers have made millionaires of dentists who provided unnecessary, shoddy dental work. This is what happens when unqualified, negligent or dishonest people administer public money. Although the federal government pays for most of Medicaid, it is administered by the states.

Also, the governor and legislature lied to voters when they said they balanced the state budget in the last session. To conceal this lie, they just underfunded the states present share of Medicaid by pushing $5 billion of presently required funding to the next two year state budget. This would be fine, except they did not even suggest where the next legislature could find the $5 billion owed and an additional $5 billion for the next two years.

I am most dismayed that many Texans support his contempt for the poor. How can people who boast about this being a Christian state and nation still support the totally un-Christian acts of their elected representatives? How can the people of a rich state, with one out of four residents without access to medical care call themselves Christians? Especially, when we will only have to pay less than 10 cents on the dollar to provide almost universal medical care.

Don’t forget these federal dollars are collected from us Texans, too, and will go to some other state if we don’t do the right thing. Those federal dollars would also go back into our state economy through doctors, nurses, technicians, hospitals, clinics, labs and drug sales. What state could turn down a 900 percent return on money invested in its own residents, while helping to balance the state budget?

Dennis Tilly is a Weatherford resident.

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