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Medicaid Expansion: Allow Every Citizen Access to Health Insurance

I live in a state that has refused to accept Medicaid Expansion funds. The latest reports are proof that Texas, the largest state opting out, will cut off its nose to spite its face: we could collect $100 billion in federal funds over the next 10 years if we agreed to expand Medicaid eligibility. While hospitals in other states will see a drop in uncompensated care, Texas hospitals will continue to provide $5.5 billion annually to the uninsured.

It’s a little difficult to understand why politicians in our state—and others like ours–would reject the opportunity to help citizens when they have health insurance that is paid by their constituents.

For those of us who are insured, we know that this reduces the stress in our lives. One study by Harvard researchers found that, by forgoing Medicaid expansion, more than one million Texans will remain uninsured, thousands of uninsured citizens will likely die as a result and more than 180,000 will not receive depression diagnosis.

I’d like to share a little about my friend, who has been affected by our state’s decision. She isn’t on Medicaid you’ll be happy to hear. She does have a job, but unfortunately, she makes just a few bucks over minimum wage and her employer does not offer health coverage for employees. Yes, she’s one of the Texans who makes too much for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for subsidies bought through the state’s federally run Health Insurance Marketplace.

Did I mention that she has four children? That’s right. To purchase coverage for her kids and herself, she’s looking at spending about $1,000 a month. I know; that’s a crazy number for a person not making much more than minimum wage.

Many people have said that my friend should not have had four kids she can’t support. It seems so simple now. Yet before her husband died suddenly, the family income was six figures, and obviously, they had plenty of money for things like health insurance and basic living expenses.

The next question people often ask is why she doesn’t go to college so she can find a better job. Yet she does indeed have a bachelor’s degree from a well-known university in Texas. Like many Americans, a degree doesn’t always open the door to a good living, especially when you have a family and are the only income-earner. My friend not only went to college in Texas, but she was born here—to American citizens, lived most of her life in this state and graduated from a high school in the Dallas area. (So Texas doesn’t have to worry that she’s one of “those illegals.”)

I know that people are worried about the lazy, good-for-nothings who take from the system (and I’m not talking about certain politicians). Texans don’t want to support people who won’t help themselves. Let me tell you a little about what my friend gives to her community. You know that parent who you can always count on to help out? Well, that’s her. On her free time—afternoons and weekends—you’ll find her at the school or on field trips, helping with many of the activities other parents can’t fit into their schedules. She’s chaperoned nearly every band trip and sports activity for all her kids. She picks up the slack for many of us, for those people who have big jobs or social events and can’t get away to help out.

I know that Texans are fond of their guns to protect their turf, but aren’t we just shooting ourselves in the foot? We pay anyway for those who need emergency care and cannot afford the bill. And then, too, while Texans fund the Medicare expansion program through federal taxes, we reject the assistance to help our own citizens. So our hard-earned money is leaving the Lone Star state to help low-income families in other states while our own suffer. Does this make sense? We pride ourselves in being friendly and helping our neighbors, but we have the highest percentage of uninsured adults in the nation. Can you imagine the stress that brings to a family?

One more thing–about the abortion bill that recently passed in Texas. When Rick Perry said, “This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women,” I wonder if he meant “life” as in only newly formed organisms or “life” as in those folks who are already living here in Texas? If Mr. Perry supports “the health of Texas women,” then he’ll probably understand why I wrote this column. If he doesn’t understand, I hope that Texas will elect a governor who can.

Compassion starts at home. Let’s help every citizen obtain the health insurance that our lawmakers, judges and other government employees enjoy.

Deborah Mitchell lives in Texas.

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