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Leticia Van de Putte Calls for Expanded Health Coverage

August 25, 2014
Via Texas Senate website

Via Texas Senate website

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, wants to expand health care coverage for uninsured Texans, arguing that it’s “not only the right choice for millions of Texans without health insurance, but it is also the right business decision.”

In her latest policy proposal released Friday, Van de Putte promises to undo the damage caused by the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, vowing to bring federal, state and local leaders together to come up with a Texas-customized solution to the coverage gap created without expanded Medicaid eligibility.  Refusing to do so has left nearly 1 million uninsured, poor Texans without options because who don’t qualify for the traditional Medicaid program, but also make too much money to qualify for financial assistance in the private insurance Marketplace.

“All hardworking Texans deserve health care, not just those that can afford it. For over 30 years, I have been listening to Texans across the prescription counter,” she said. “I know the successes and the tragic shortcomings of the health care system in our state.”

Van de Putte championed the business impact of expanded health insurance coverage, promising as lieutenant governor to expand Medicaid so that Texas can draw down the more than $80 million federal dollars over the next 10 years. Per the Affordable Care Act, Texas would only cover 10 percent of the costs to expand the program, with the federal government covering the other 90 percent for the first three years.

“As Lieutenant Governor, I’ll forge a Texas solution to draw down federal funds back to Texas taxpayers, protect Texas businesses, and expand access to affordable health care in our state,” she said. “One out of every four Texans lacks health insurance, that system is unsustainable, bad for business, and bad for Texas families.”

As outlined in her proposal, elements of Van de Putte’s Texas solution include: “manageable co-pays and premiums based on income, contributions to health savings accounts, healthy lifestyle incentives or using federal funds to buy private insurance.”

Another pitfall of not expanding Medicaid is that local hospitals will continue to wrack up uncompensated care costs that they incur when treating uninsured patients in emergency rooms, whose expenses are covered by taxpayers. In her proposal, Van de Putte calls this side effect “the most disappointing aspect of refusing this federal funding is that Texas taxpayers are left paying for the cost of treating those without insurance.”

Leaders of large Texas counties, including Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, recently sent a letter to Texas senators urging them to find a Texas-specific solution, writing that “evidence abounds as to this need.” According to estimates by Billy Hamilton, former state comptroller and state finance expert, San Antonio-area hospitals, including the Bexar County Hospital District, could save more than $400,000,000 in uncompensated care costs.

“What we’re leaving on the table is a significant amount of money, and now Texas taxpayers are sending that money to other states that are expanding their programs,” Wolff said, adding that this is a strong economic issue. “Evidence shows that when people are covered, they do go to the doctor and take care of themselves, and it’s more important to do that than wait to go to the emergency room…this will have a direct impact on local county budgets and taxpayers that pay that tax.”

Texas leaders and prominent Republicans, including Sen. Dan Patrick also running for lieutenant governor, have spent years decrying the Affordable Care Act, especially Medicaid Expansion. Alejandro Garcia with Patrick’s campaign said the law has “punished the business community” and said Van de Putte is on “the wrong side of the issues.”

“Aligning herself with failed policies clearly proves she is more interested in currying favor with her friends in Washington D.C. than serving the people of Texas,” he said. “Sen. Patrick will continue to seek flexibility and efficiency in order to provide the highest quality healthcare our fellow Texans deserve.”

Garcia said via email that he would let the Current know when and if Patrick plans to release a health care proposal.

Van de Putte also wants to continue improving the state’s family planning program, left in shreds after dramatic budget cuts in 2011 left thousands of women without access to preventive care and birth control after clinics were forced to close their doors. The 2013 Texas Legislature added some of that funding back, but rural areas in particular are still feeling the repercussions.

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