Yesterday, I visited a young woman who suffered a freak accident a few years ago and is now almost completely paralyzed. Her doctors believe she will be able to walk again if she receives treatment. Unfortunately, she lives in Texas which has one of the stingiest Medicaid programs in the country. She receives $700 a month in disability, but that is “too much” to qualify for Medicaid here.
This woman has worked since she was 16 years old and has paid Social Security taxes from day one. She wants to work again – she told me she hopes to be a registered nurse one day – but her state government has stacked the odds against her. This is just not the way things are supposed to work; we are supposed to be better than that. Unfortunately, as of right now, we aren’t. This is the reality of what is going on in our state. It is foolish and downright cruel.
Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this problem. Next session, Texas lawmakers are going to decide whether or not Texas will participate in the Medicaid Expansion as provided by the Affordable Care Act. The federal government will pay for 100% of the expansion for the first three years and 90% of more of the costs every year after that. This is an amazing deal for Texas; turning this down would be turning down free money. Most importantly, though, it will prevent situations like this one. Medicaid will cover all individuals up to 133% of the federal poverty level, and that will include her.
I’ve worked with many lawmakers in my 21 years as a legislator, and I know of no one – Republican or Democrat – who wouldn’t want to help people like this woman I met yesterday. It is our responsibility as lawmakers to correct bad policy, and that is exactly what the Medicaid Expansion would do. That is why I am optimistic going into next session that we can get a deal done.
In this particular case, I have been in talks with HHSC and am confident that we can work something out for her, but one thing I’ve learned by now it is that if there is one person in a situation, there are many others going through the same thing. The proposed Medicaid expansion gives us an incredible opportunity to help a lot of people. Let’s take it.