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Will COVID-19 Stimulus Dollars Turn Texas Toward Medicaid Expansion?

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By solid margins, voters in Texas support extending the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, according to a survey by Data for Progress. (childrensdefense.org)
By solid margins, voters in Texas support extending the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, according to a survey by Data for Progress. (childrensdefense.org)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
March 16, 2021

AUSTIN, Texas -- The COVID-19 relief bill is packed with incentives to encourage 12 holdout states to expand Medicaid, but it's unclear if Texas and Florida, the two largest of those states, will take the deal.

When the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, it gave each state the option to expand Medicaid for those living in or near poverty.

But a dozen states, mostly in the South, have declined to do so.

Laura Guerra-Cardus, deputy director for the Children's Defense Fund-Texas, believes lawmakers should act now on expansion to make Texas a better place to live and work.

"Our leaders can and must rise above politics and expand Medicaid," Guerra-Cardus asserted. "Anything short of expansion, we think, is simply playing politics with people's lives."

The relief package would pay each state's 10% share of the Medicaid costs for the next two years, and give them additional money to cover people who are uninsured.

Adam Searing, health-policy research professor at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said in many states, health-care coverage has gone from bad to worse during the pandemic.

His data show children in states that expand Medicaid are twice as likely to have health coverage.

"The sad thing is that over the last five years, our progress in insuring children has turned around," Searing remarked. "While we have done a good job overall insuring kids across the country, we shouldn't be going backwards."

Texas has long had the highest uninsured rate in the country. Nearly 13% of Texas children are uninsured compared with less than 2% in Massachusetts, which expanded Medicaid eight years ago.

Guerra-Cardus noted when parents are uninsured, children also suffer.

"In Texas, we have a children's health insurance crisis, where over the last about three years, we have reversed course and started seeing our child uninsured rate grow pretty dramatically," Guerra-Cardus observed.

Should Texas expand Medicaid now, the state would stand to gain $3 billion to $5 billion in federal aid over a two-year period.

Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children and Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, and Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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