DALLAS – Standing alongside business leaders in the Metroplex, Sen. Nathan Johnson on Thursday rolled out a plan that he said has “no ideology” and is neither a Republican nor Democratic idea: Expanding health insurance coverage to as many Texans as possible, in part, by drawing down federal dollars under the Affordable Care Act.
“This is neither a Republican bill nor a Democratic bill; this is a Texas bill,” said Johnson, the Democrat who succeed former Sen. Don Huffines in the Texas Senate partly on the argument that Republicans needed to rescue their party from the far right. “It’s a Texas bill because it’s about the well-being of Texas citizens, about the productivity of Texas businesses, the growth of the Texas economy, and it’s about revenue and fiscal responsibility for the state of Texas.”
“We can give a million people access to healthcare, bring home billions of our federal tax dollars, strengthen rural and urban health systems, and generate revenue for the state, without imposing taxes on Texas citizens,” he said.
Johnson was joined during a morning news conference by Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council CEO Steve Love, North Dallas Chamber of Commerce CEO Ken Malcolmson, and North Texas Commission Senior Policy Advisor Charlene Stark.
The bill that Johnson intends to file as soon as possible would do several key things, including:
- Expanding health insurance coverage: Provides healthcare coverage for up to 1.5 million Texans – adults age 19-64 who earn less than 138% of the federal poverty level ($1,467/month for an individual,$3,013/month for a family of four); who can’t afford insurance (or healthcare);
- Encouraging personal responsibility: Participants who contribute to a health savings account receive incentives for healthy behaviors, and a plan-supported financial pathway to private or employer-sponsored health insurance;
- Encouraging more physicians to accept Medicaid patients through Medicaid- Medicare reimbursement rate parity and incorporating value-based payments from MCOs.
The bill would also, as Johnson intends to file it, provide for a “self-destruct mechanism” that terminates the program if the federal government ever eliminates the 90/10 matching funding.
Sen. Johnson pointed out that in 2012, former Chief Revenue Estimator for Texas Billy Hamilton looked into this and found coverage expansion would be a net benefit to the state’s budget, which of course this coming session is expected to see a shortfall of at least $4.6 billion. Economist Ray Perryman reported similar findings in 2013, Johnson noted.
“The Texas Hospitals have always supported coverage expansion as North Texas has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation. We need a bi-partisan collaborative coalition with the goal of treating patients, maximizing financing and making our communities healthy,” said Love, CEO of the DFW Hospital Council. “The solution is all stakeholders putting the patients first, compromising on policies and developing a comprehensive health care delivery system that meets the medical needs of our total community.
“Failure to address the issue could be determinative for businesses trying to figure out whether to make strategic investments in our state, said Stark of the North Texas Commission.
For many years, corporations have relocated their corporate headquarters to North Texas Cities,” Stark said. “As the number of uninsured Texans continues to grow, we cannot afford to lead our country with the largest number of uninsured individuals.”
She said such corporate relocations might be discouraged in the future if this is not addressed.
“Access to health care needs to expand so we can improve the health of North Texas workers and their families, increase productivity, and attract more business and talent,” Stark said. “It is critical during this time that we have legislation that will reduce the number of uninsured Texans and expand access to health care.”
“Obviously, controversy continues to surround the ACA, with arguments about the fate of the law slated to be made before the United States Supreme Court after the election. But the political realities of parts of the law have shifted, with Republicans and Democrats now battling it out in the general election over which party can do a better job of protecting preexisting conditions.
“It’s dissipated,” Johnson said of the idea that expansion of Medicaid is a nonstarter in Austin.
Copyright 2020, Quorum Report. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.