Commentary: Texans’ tax dollars pay for health care — outside our state

  • Billie Reaney
  • Special to the American-Statesman
12:25 p.m Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 Opinion
Ben Sears suffers from a traumatic brain injury that impairs his cognitive and physical functions. His family says that they have see progress after physical therapy. But following Medicaid’s denials for this health care, they worry that his growth will either slow or regress.

Turning down a $10 billion investment in Texas in 2017 is high-grade nonsense. Doing it for the last five years is unconscionable.

That is serious money. It is a mistake with long-lasting consequences when you consider what we could have achieved had that money been invested in our state every one of those years, with continued investment for the years ahead. Think of the jobs that would have been created and the businesses that could have expanded. That infusion of dollars would have had a really big impact on the Texas economy. Every dollar spent on jobs and services generates more jobs and more business. People would have been lifted into well-paying jobs. Furthermore, that money was available virtually without cost to Texans.

Our state government says “no” to billions of dollars out of shear political stubbornness. That money is part of the Obama’s health care law. His name is connected to it, which is all the GOP needs as a reason to turn it down. That is indefensible. The expanded Medicaid money offered to Texans comes from federal taxes that we’ve already paid.

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However, Govs. Rick Perry and Greg Abbott — along with Republican legislators — refuse to take our share back. Instead, the money is going to Oklahoma, Arizona, Ohio and other Republican states, where they recognize a good deal when it lands on their desk. Meanwhile, governors from Democratic states laugh all the way to the bank.

So, how do we take care of our working poor who do not have health insurance? GOP office holders raise your property taxes to make up for the $ 10 billion turned away every year. Did anybody ever explain to you a reason for raising taxes to pay for what your county calls “uncompensated care”? Why not use those available big bucks from the federal government? These are your property taxes. You have a right to know what kind of cockamamie reason justifies robbing you when Uncle Sam was — and still is — willing and able to pay.

In one decade, Texas Republicans will have dropped $ 100 billion or more down the drain for purely political reasons. This money would have gone to hospitals and doctors; to nurses and medics; to fund ambulance services and EMS rooms and specialists; employ pharmacists; provide wheelchairs and rehab to those who need it. It would have paid for vaccinations for babies and mammograms for women. It would have helped to keep our rural clinics and hospitals open, so more Texans would have access to health care.

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It would have made Texas a better place to live. One in four people in America without health care insurance lives in Texas. Texas ranks 41st among the 50 states at providing health care for its residents when evaluated on standard health care measurements that include: people without health insurance, hospital re-admissions, premature deaths for lack of care; breast cancer deaths per 100,000 female population; colorectal cancer deaths per 100,000 population; and infant mortality deaths per 1,000 live births.

Texas’s miserable record on health care makes us a loser when companies consider relocating here. Companies like Amazon expect facilities and services that will enable their highly paid workers to stay healthy.

It’s still possible to get that federal aid money flowing into Texas jobs and economy — but we need a remake of the Texas Legislature — and a governor who puts the well-being of Texans first. That means we need Democrats in control of governance. State Sen. Charles Schwertner, chair of the committee in charge of health care, recently expressed his objection to expanded Medicaid insurance for Texans to the media. It was because recipients, he said, will use it too much.