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Should Texas ditch Medicaid?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - 1:21pm

Texas is facing a huge budget shortfall in the upcoming legislative session. That is forcing representatives to get creative about budget cutting.

One area some are targeting is the Medicaid program.

Texas has 6 million uninsured people, at 27%, the highest proportion of uninsured in the nation. But those are only the folks who don’t qualify for Medicaid. So, what if it were gone or reduced?

Some in Austin are saying, we just can’t afford it anymore.

Many get Medicare and Medicaid confused. Medicare is for the elderly and Medicaid is for the poor.
And the Medicaid program is a partnership between the federal and state governments, with the Feds paying 60% of the cost, which together totals $20-billion a year in Texas.

But under healthcare reform, more people will qualify and Texas is worried about the cost of expanded coverage.

The state’s share of the Medicaid and SCHIP program for needy children is roughly $6-7-billion a year, and Governor Perry is one of those who says we could run the program more effectively ourselves.

But how does Texas save money when the same need exists, but that $14-billion from Washington disappears? Simple, you change standards to make the pool of eligible people smaller.

Without Medicaid, the percentage of uninsured Texans becomes a full 40%. Those who are removed from eligibility will go somewhere when there is a health crisis, and that somewhere is the emergency room.

So, like college tuition and other issues the state has faced, this one will be punted to local hospital districts, and as with tuition, average taxpayers will cover the cost, one way or another. In short, there don’t seem to be any really good solutions.

Representative Warren Chisum of Pampa, who is Representative Leo Berman’s choice for Speaker of the House, says simply, we need to get rid of Medicare.

While that could save the state lots of money, local hospital executives are bracing themselves for the results of that saving.

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