Want to Promote Jobs in Texas? Try Expanding Coverage

Earlier this month, as Governor Perry announced that a new $12 million investment in Chevron through the Texas Enterprise Fund could bring the state an estimated 1,700 jobs, I couldn't help but think about a recent missed opportunity to bring over 200,000 new jobs to Texas. The governor and the Texas legislature recently failed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would have increased the number of people eligible for Medicaid coverage. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the country. The Affordable Care Act, coupled with Medicaid expansion, has the potential to cut the number of uninsured people in Texas dramatically. Without Medicaid expansion, however, the number of uninsured who will have coverage next year will be a lot lower: as many as a million people could miss out on getting the health insurance they need.

Medicaid expansion would have allowed citizens with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to have access to Medicaid coverage. Opponents of Medicaid expansion were worried about how much this would cost Texas, but the federal government would cover 100% of the costs for the first three years of Texas’ expansion to these adults. In states that expand Medicaid, the federal government also will cover 95% of the cost in 2017, 94% in 2018, 93% in 2019, and no less than 90% every year after that. Yes, Medicaid expansion would require some Texas resources, but for every $1.3 billion Texas invests, the federal government would kick in $24 billion in federal matching funds between 2014-2017, according to Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimates.

Not only would Medicaid expansion have helped bring health coverage to many Texas residents, it would have also made thousands of new jobs available across the state. According to a report done by Billy Hamilton Consulting for Texas Impact and Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Medicaid expansion would have generated over 70,000 jobs in Texas in 2014, and increased to over 230,000 jobs in 2016. Many of these jobs would pay well, with security and benefits that increase the level of living for the Texans who hold these jobs.

Failing to expand Medicaid this year represented a huge missed opportunity. The governor and lawmakers need to right that wrong, and help bring hundreds of thousands of jobs—and health care security for hundreds of thousands more—to Texas.

Written by: Rachel Malhiet, Children's Defense Fund – Texas