While Gov. Rick Perry spoke early in the day, protesters with the Texas Organizing Project shouted slogans in support of Medicaid expansion.
Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz lined up alongside the Governor to speak against Medicaid expansion. Sen. Cornyn said expanding Medicaid rolls in Texas could add to the national deficit, leaving Texas alone to handle costs.
"So why in the world would we keep expanding this flawed system and jamming more and more people into a program that they can’t find a doctor to see them?" he asked.
Gov. Perry repeated his call for asset tests to weed out anyone who could actually afford private insurance, and for individuals to start health savings accounts. Although the Governor is standing firm against expansion, Democrats are near unanimous in supporting it. Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro and his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, joined other state lawmakers in calling for an expansion.
"And remember, this is federal money that is going to be spent whether we opt in to the program or not," Rep. Castro said. "In other words, if we don’t reclaim our federal dollars that Texas taxpayers are paying, they’re going to go to other states."
University of Houston health law professor Seth Chandler said people in Texas are understandably unhappy with Medicaid because it's expensive.
"In states like Texas that have difficulties raising taxes, it puts strains on education and law enforcement and the like," Chandler said. "The question is whether the hostility is so great that we’ll be unable to see the benefits that would come both financially and health-wise to Texas if we were to expand Medicaid."
Some lawmakers have authored bills that would request the Health and Human Services Commission to work with Washington on a Texas-specific solution to address concerns on both sides of the aisle.