by Christopher Paxton
What do the House Republican leadership and the liberal Democrat candidate for Lt. Governor have in common? Both take positions opposite that of the Texas Republican Party platform regarding Obamacare.
Late last week, State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte called for a “Texas Solution” to Medicaid expansion. This misleading phrase, “Texas Solution” has been a popular misnomer among liberal-leaning Republicans and Democrats who want to expand the size of the broken state-federal healthcare financing system.
According to the state’s Legislative Budget Board, nearly two-thirds of the roughly $70 billion of federal money received by the state last biennium goes to Health and Human Services—of which Medicaid is the largest program. Enticed by the prospect of even more of your tax-dollars, many liberal Republicans have displayed their budgetary myopia jonesing for the federal funds that would return a diminishing match with each budget cycle.
Currently, the federal government matches nearly $60 for every $40 Texas spends on most Medicaid services. Under Obamacare, the feds would chip-in 100% for expansion-eligible populations, but only for three years. After that, Texans would largely be at the mercy of the federal government in terms of paying for this massive new population of beneficiaries.
Under current funding rules for Medicaid, states are incentivized to spend as much as possible on the program, as there is no limit on the amount of federal funds a state can receive if it spends money to draw them down. No spending limits and the prospect of “free” federal money is a recipe for complete fiscal recklessness. It is no wonder that big-spending Speaker Joe Straus was quoted during the 83rd session that Texas “can’t just say ‘no’” to Medicaid expansion, only to be repudiated by nearly the entire House Republican caucus and Governor Perry.
Politicians favoring expansion with “conditions” or state rules dictating how the program would be expanded have floated their “Texas Solution”—meaning that the state would later opt-out if it found the expansion unfavorable to the state.
There is a reason this idea never received serious consideration during the 83rd Legislature.
This position ignores the plain reality of the Medicaid program. A March 2013 Wall Street Journal article explains why states that seek to opt-in to expanding medicaid will likely never opt-out, “[…] there’s no evidence in the original law [Obamacare] or the Supreme Court opinion [in NFIB v. Sebelius] that states can join or leave at their own whim.”
Just as Obamacare has proved a disaster for the federal government and many state governments that opted to expand Medicaid, there can be no doubt that Texas’ economic progress would be severely hindered by expanding this broken system.
Despite all of the repeated rejections of Obamacare by conservative leaders, liberal leaning Republican House members are still pushing for expansion. Ignoring the manifold fiscal and political dangers of this position, Straus Committee chair John Zerwas is in lock-step with liberal Democrats.
Texas taxpayers should ask their House members if they will support the conservative position on Obamacare or if they will side with Speaker Straus, his lieutenants, and liberal Democrats against the Republican Party platform.