AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The White House and Texas Democrats touted the health care overhaul on Monday and renewed calls on Republican leaders to expand coverage for the poor.
As Republican candidates blast the Affordable Care Act ahead of the March 4 primary, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins joined Obama administration adviser David Simas to call for expanding the program in Texas, home to the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured.
Simas said that more than 10.6 million Texans can no longer be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions but added he couldn’t say how many Texans have signed up so far for coverage using the troubled website Healthcare.gov. He said the information would be available soon.
Jenkins and Martinez Fischer, though, said they were most concerned about the 1.2 million Texans who are not eligible for health care because the Texas Legislature did not expand Medicaid coverage to include poor, working adults. Those people end up seeking care in emergency rooms, where county taxes cover the costs.
“Texas hospitals provide more than $5 billion in uncompensated care,” Jenkins said. “Dallas county residents pay more for uncompensated care than all other county services combined.”
Perry and other top Republicans remain adamantly opposed to expanding government health care, calling Medicaid a broken system and its expansion a waste of taxpayer dollars. The Republican-controlled Legislature rejected participating in any portion of President Barack Obama’s health program that was not required by federal law.
Martinez Fischer said Texas should expand Medicaid to lower health care costs by providing free preventative health services and diverting patients away from expensive emergency rooms.
“We have 5.7 million uninsured Texans and we’re going to have to make tough choices and hard decisions and ask folks to share in the sacrifice,” he said. “Expanding Medicaid should not be partisan, Republican governors in New Mexico, Arizona, Ohio and other places have accepted the expansion.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the leading Republican candidate to replace Perry, opposes expanding Medicaid and has pledged to do everything possible to reverse the Affordable Care Act. Democratic candidate Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth state senator, supports including the working poor in the program.
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