How Texas Might Extend Medicaid for Families Who Need Health Care

 The 83rd session has begun and talk of Medicaid expansion--allowing Texans who make within 133% of the federal poverty limit the opportunity to have health coverage through federal dollars--is all over the Capitol. Some are for and some are against, but one thing is for sure: there is a lot at stake in an opportunity to provide health coverage to 1.5 million more people and infuse our state’s economy with $90 billion dollars of federal monies over 10 years. While the federal government allows states to opt in through various ways, with our legislative session upon us, one possibility being explored by our state legislators is the passage of legislation.

Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 8 – Senator Ellis (D)

                This bill calls for an amendment to the Texas constitution.  As a joint resolution, this bill would require a 2/3 vote from each chamber. If successful, it would then be put on a ballot for voter consideration in November of 2013. Specifically, the proposal would require that Texas provide coverage under Medicaid for anyone for whom the federal government provides matching funds to cover.

House Bill (HB) 59 – Representative Burnam (D)

                HB 59 would allow local units of government to opt into federal healthcare programs. Because Medicaid expansion is such a great deal, with 100% of the expansion population covered for three years and then 90% covered in the following years, counties, entities that often bear the high cost burden of large populations of uninsured, would love the opportunity to opt in directly and have been pushing for an option that would allow for expansion. It is still unclear whether the federal government will allow local entities to opt in, so a statewide solution is still the preferable option.

House Bill (HB) 593 – Representative Naishtat (D)

                HB 593 is similar to SJR 8 in what it seeks to do – provide health coverage assistance to anyone who would be covered through matching federal funds; however it would do so through a direct change in statute. If the bill was successfully passed and not vetoed, it would not require the additional step of a general population vote.

                These are only the possible legislative vehicles for Medicaid expansion and are only those that have been filed to date. Expansion could also happen through inclusion in our state budget, the legislation that appears as SB and HB 1. These bills are all only in the filing stage at the moment and, with the help of Texans like you, will be getting a hearing sometime in the near future. Stay connected to us, and we will keep you posted as these and other proposals move along the process. Medicaid expansion in Texas has champions in the legislature actively trying to provide health care to those Texans who need it most--and that’s something we can be proud of and should help make a reality.

Written by: Clayton Travis, Texans Care for Children

Cross-posted with permission from the State of the Children blog