By Tim Eaton (Austin American Statesman) | Friday, June 29, 2012
Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst today became the first major political figure in Texas to say the state shouldn’t expand its Medicaid program as part of the federal health insurance overhaul that was deemed constitutional a day ago by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a statement, Dewhurst said: “Adding additional strain to the state budget by adding 1.5-2 million more people to an already broken Medicaid system will be a train wreck for Texas when the federal government’s Medicaid match inevitably ends.”
The federal health care plan, often referred by as “Obamacare,” gives states the option to expand Medicaid to help poor people gain coverage. But the justices also said that the federal government could not penalize states it they refuse to expand the program.
As part of the health plan, the federal government said it would pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for the first three years, and gradually pass on some of the burden to the states, ultimately capping the states’ responsibility at 10 percent of the additional cost.
Both Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus said Thursday that they had not yet decided if they would support the expansion.
Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the nonprofit advocacy group Center for Public Policy Priorities, said she expected an ideological pushback, but she maintained that a decision to not expand Medicaid would be a mistake because it would leave billions of federal dollars annually on the table, she said.