Key Texas lawmaker supports Medicaid policy change


Highlights

Federal policy change unlikely to have much effect in Texas since state already limits Medicaid eligibility.

Sen. Schwertner: Medicaid recipients “should bear some responsibility for the cost of their own health care.”

An influential Texas lawmaker says he supports a new federal policy that allows states to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who chairs the Texas Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, said the policy change will allow states more flexibility with their health care systems. The new policy,however, would have less impact in Texas than in some other states due to Texas’ already limited Medicaid eligibility for nonworking residents.

“I’ve said for years that Medicaid is a costly and broken system, and that we need to explore all available options to put this program on a more sustainable fiscal trajectory, including co-payments, health savings accounts, and work requirements where appropriate,” Schwertner said in a written statement. “I believe that every Medicaid or welfare recipient who is capable of working, particularly those in expansion states, should be expected to bear some responsibility for the cost of their own health care.”

By imposing work requirements, proponents say states could better control Medicaid costs, especially in states that have expanded their Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. Federal officials cited a request by Medicaid officials in 10 states that did not include Texas to begin demonstration projects that test work requirements.

The impact of the new policy in Texas will be minimal, said state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who also sits on the state Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.

“This barely applies to Texas because Texas’ Medicaid program is such a limited program,” Watson said. “Most adults who can work here are ineligible and those who can’t work are eligible.”

Theoretically, Texas could seek to change those exemptions. Changes could be taken up by the Legislature, Watson said.

Watson, however, said he doesn’t see state officials changing current exemptions for nonworking Medicaid recipients.

“I would hope that we don’t start targeting (nonworking) lower-income people that have health care issues,” he said. “I would raise all sorts of Cain if we start targeting those extremely vulnerable people.”

Editor’s note: The story has been updated to clarify that Schwertner did not say the new policy would have less impact in Texas, and to correct a typographical error in Watson’s comments.



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