Texas Tribune

Medicaid expansion in Texas: we’ve highlighted the topic a couple of times during the legislative session. From those hoping to pick up Medicaid coverage, to lawmakers for and against Texas joining in the Affordable Care Act program.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Negotiations with the federal government to expand Medicaid in Texas are at a standstill, according to the head of the state’s health agency, because he’s waiting on the Legislature to give him direction.

“If I were to go up and say, ‘Oh what if we try this or try that,’ only to come back and find that that very day the Legislature had passed legislation saying, ‘You may not talk about that,’” Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek said at a TribLive event held by our political reporting partner the Texas Tribune, “it would be a waste of my time to start negotiating pieces.”

Nathan Bernier/KUT

A bill approved today by a Texas House committee would help insure the roughly 6 million Texas residents who don’t have coverage, but not in the way envisioned by the federal Affordable Care Act.

State Rep.  John Zerwas, R-Simonton, says his bill is what he calls a “Texas” solution to the health insurance gap. He adamantly says he’s not for Medicaid expansion.

"To put a million and a half people into the current Medicaid program and expect we’re going to be able to serve those people with a very fragile provider network is just totally wrong," Zerwas said.

Andrew Weber for KUT News

Nursing home professionals from all over Texas gathered today at the Capitol, asking lawmakers to expand Medicaid funding to care for more of the state’s seniors.

Paul Gerharter is director of nursing at Touchstone Communities, a provider of nursing home care in Central and South Texas. He says state budgets have lessened the number of nursing homes in the midst of a growing need for long-term care.

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

In the midst of debate on the 2014-15 budget, the House quietly approved an amendment on Thursday that would open the door to negotiations on expanding Medicaid, a key provision of federal health reform. The amendment requires the Health and Human Services Commission to develop a plan to create more efficient health care options for Medicaid populations if the state chooses to draw down federal financing to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Filipa Rodrigues

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.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: The biggest Republicans in Texas stood side-by-side today and argued against expanding Texas Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said it doesn’t matter if the federal government has offered to cover the full cost of the expansion for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter.

Flickr user Images of Money,

Texas is trying to help some Medicaid recipients with behavioral disorders improve their health. 

The state’s health department has embarked on a $10 million dollar project aimed at preventing people with mental health or substance abuse issues from developing chronic diseases.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate unanimously approved an overhaul of long-term and acute care Medicaid services on Monday in an effort to expand care to more disabled Texans while saving millions of state dollars.

“We cannot continue to fund the same inefficient, unsustainable long-term care system and expect a different result,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, the author of Senate Bill 7.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The state of Texas has not joined in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. At the Conservative Political Action Conference late last week, Gov. Rick Perry said he would not let Texas join the expansion unless the federal government tailored the program for this state.

Perry gave a list of requirements for Texas to join the Medicaid expansion. Many were items he’s demanded in the past, but one in particular caught the ear of those who support expansion.

“We need to asset-test to make sure care is there for those who really need it most,” Perry said at CPAC.

Texas Tribune

The state of Texas has not joined in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. At the Conservative Political Action Conference late last week, Governor Rick Perry said he would not let Texas join the expansion unless the Federal government tailored the program for this state.

When Governor Perry spoke at CPAC last week, he gave a list of requirements for Texas to join in Medicaid expansion. Many were items he’s demanded in the past, but one in particular caught the ear of those who support expansion.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

A report released today by the Texas Public Policy Foundation criticizes the state’s Medicaid program, calling its access to healthcare providers “inadequate” and its health outcomes “poor.”

Gov. Rick Perry has refused to accept federal money to expand access to Medicaid, citing much the same reasons.

Perry says he would prefer a “block grant” of the federal money, allowing Texas to decide how best to spend it.

KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is holding firm to his decision to rebuff any Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. One lawmaker says expansion is necessary – because Texas has six million uninsured residents– and that makes the state No. 1 in the nation.

How true is that statement?

KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry reiterated his stance against Medicaid expansion today at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. Texas is the last large state still opting out of the expansion of Medicaid to people earning more than traditional recipients who still cannot afford private insurance.

In his speech, Perry chastised other Republican governors who he said have “folded in the face of federal bribery.”

Texas Well and Healthy Coalition

A new Gallup poll out this morning says almost 29 percent of Texans don’t have health insurance. That easily puts Texas at the highest percentage of uninsured in the country. And the highest Gallup has ever recorded in Texas.

About a million of those uninsured could find coverage under Medicaid expansion, if Governor Rick Perry were to allow it. So let’s meet a couple of the people hoping he’ll change his mind.

Mike Martinez via Facebook

Supporters of Texas expanding access to Medicaid, among them representatives of Planned Parenthood, marched up Congress Avenue Tuesday to the Capitol steps.

They’re calling on Texas lawmakers to accept Federal money as part of the Affordable Care Act to get healthcare to more than a million Texans who otherwise would not have it.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

House Republicans on Monday agreed not to expand Medicaid as called for under the federal Affordable Care Act — but left the door open to doing it if the Obama administration grants Texas enough flexibility.

“The current path as proposed is unsustainable from a fiscal standpoint,” said caucus chairman Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. He said the caucus would continue to “propose solutions on the issue, which we’re formulating and will continue to do so throughout the session.” 

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate's Nominations committee confirmed Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment of Dr. Kyle Janek as the head of the state’s largest healthcare service provider for low-income and aging Texans – the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Janek spoke to Sen. Jane Nelson about the future of funding and providing Medicaid services for Texans, asserting that the state should take a more streamlined approach to providing and funding healthcare.

Marissa Barnett, KUT News

Advocates and lawmakers rallied at the Texas Capitol today to urge more state funding for mental health services.

Texas now ranks 49th in per capita spending for mental health care services. 

In the last session, the legislature made few changes to mental health funding. But as Texas’ population grows, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) policy coordinator Greg Hansch says mental health spending also has to increase.

Daniel Reese, KUT News

New Jersey’s Chris Christie is the latest Republican Governor to change his mind and accept the federal Medicaid expansion in his state. The move is emboldening groups in Texas who would like to see Governor Perry also accept the provision of the Affordable Care Act.

John Hawkins is a policy analyst with the Texas Hospital Association. He says hospitals in the state provide $5 billion annually in uncompensated care.