A primary legislative priority of your Chamber of Commerce is the expansion of Medicaid in Texas. Every major healthcare and business group in the state has called on the legislature to expand eligibility for Medicaid to the working poor in the state. Last session, a bill to expand Medicaid introduced in the Texas House had enough sponsors and co-sponsors to almost assure passage. It failed to even get a committee hearing.
The Affordable Care Act was designed to provide near universal health care coverage. Coverage for adults earning up to 133% of the federal poverty level were to be through Medicaid expansion by the states. The federal government offered 100% reimbursement of the costs for the first two-years and then 90% reimbursement after that. The Supreme Court ruled that states did not have to expand coverage and Texas opted not to. It is estimated that Texas is losing $15 billion in federal funding a year by not expanding Medicaid. More than 700,000 Texans would qualify for health coverage under a Medicaid expansion.
In Texas, adults with low incomes who are aged, blind or disabled can qualify for Medicaid. Children living in families with incomes up to 201% of the federal poverty level qualify for either Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). An adult care giver for the disabled or children only qualifies for Medicaid if they earn less than 14% of the federal poverty level. That equates to a family income of $230 per month or less to qualify for a single adult household.
Those of us living in metropolitan counties with county hospitals, like John Peter Smith in Tarrant County, pay for coverage for many of these adults with our hospital district property taxes. Expansion of Medicaid could logically lead to a reduction in local property taxes. In rural counties, hospitals are closing and there is a healthcare crisis. Expansion of Medicaid could be a lifeline for doctors and hospitals operating in rural Texas.
Not only is there a healthcare crisis, but there is also a workforce shortage that is impacting the service levels and productivity of businesses nationally and our member businesses are no exception. The Lack of available employees compounds the normal issue of health-related absenteeism and tardiness. Most small businesses cannot afford to provide health coverage for their employees who then are less likely to get preventative care and quick treatment. Medicaid expansion would provide coverage for many of our employees.
The source of these statistics is Healthcare.org, a source for healthcare information since 1994.