Private Sector's Interest in Covering More Texans Remains Strong

During the legislative session, Texas had an opportunity to accept a path to coverage for hundreds of thousands of working poor Texans, who otherwise will remain uninsured. Some of the strongest voices calling for Texas to accept this coverage expansion came from the private sector. That support has remained strong in the months since the session ended without  elected officials taking action on this important matter. First, some background: The Affordable Care Act allows Texas and other states to draw down federal funding that would fully pay for coverage for its poorest citizens. Sometimes called "Medicaid expansion" and other times, given the various approaches states are taking to expanding coverage, simply a "health care solution," this initially was written into the law in a way that would make it automatic for every citizen below the poverty line (and some slightly above it, too). When the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the nation's health law, however, they made this coverage optional for states. Texas is among the hold-outs, refusing to accept the funding and the path to coverage, even though it would create jobs, help local economies and give Texans financial security and peace of mind.

In the spring, our Texas Well and Healthy campaign, in partnership with other health care advocacy groups, mapped out support for a health care solution. As you can see, the support was widespread and included more than 20 business groups and chambers of commerce around the state.

Since then, even more chambers of commerce have chimed in in support of drawing down federal funds to cover more Texans. In emails to our friends at Consumers Union, representatives of the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, the Huntsville-Walker County Chamber of Commerce, and the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce all confirmed support for a health care solution to get the nearly 1 million Texans covered who otherwise are likely to remain uninsured.

This week, the board president at my organization, Texans Care for Children, Chris Taylor again made the private sector case for our state leaders to reconsider. In an op-ed for the Austin American Statesman, Taylor discussed why "Good Health is Good Business":

In the future, the governor and lawmakers can choose differently. What has been called "Medicaid expansion" for states actually offers a lot of flexibility. For example, it may mean covering those eligible for Medicaid under this part of the Affordable Care Act using private insurance in the health insurance marketplace.

In a recent visit to Texas, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius indicated the administration is open to a "uniquely Texan" approach like that, so people here, regardless of income, can get the health coverage they need.

If they don't, then even with the other improvements in coverage we'll see next year, there will continue to be far too many uninsured Texans. The uninsured will still be forced to seek care in the costliest possible places, which are our hospital emergency rooms.

When those patients can't pay for that care, as so often happens, the cost will keep getting passed along. That means higher local taxes and higher insurance premiums for businesses and individuals.

It's simply not financially prudent to keep asking local communities to foot the bill for our uninsured when better options exist. Texas economists have said extending coverage just to the 1 million people who would qualify for Medicaid expansion would generate an extra $300 billion in economic activity over a decade for our state.

Texas can and must embrace solutions that get more people in our state covered. Many businesses will tell you: the sooner the better.

Written by: Christine Sinatra, Texans Care for Children