Saturday, July 6, 2013

Texas Is Not Alone

On a recent visit to watch my granddaughter graduate from high school, I had occasion to spend a few days in Michigan. In some ways I discovered Michigan resembles Texas as far as state governance is concerned. Both houses of the legislature are Republican, as is each state’s governor.

Fortunately for Texas, we are somewhat better off financially than the state of Michigan. As to uninsured citizens of the state who are without adequate health care we do differ, but only in the size of the number of uninsured citizens. While Michigan estimates there are 450,000 uninsured citizens, Texas is estimated to have in excess of a million.

Apparently, Governor Rick Perry thinks it’s just fine to continue to have a substantial number of children in Texas rely on emergency room care as their first option for health care. While Governor Perry brags continually about the low tax rate in Texas, he fails to mention that every time an uninsured citizen of Texas seeks treatment in an emergency room, it adds an additional burden to the citizens of this state who do in fact pay for insurance or pay for care at the various hospitals throughout the state.  Estimates of this cost, which is shared by many Texas citizens, have escalated into the neighborhood of $20 billion dollars a year. 

In spite of the size of the problem, both the Governors of Michigan and Texas have refused to participate in the benefits of the Affordable Care Act which would provide Texas with billions of dollars with which to alleviate much human suffering, particularly for children in our state. What’s worse, Governor Perry appeared to resist any effort to formulate compromise strategies which might have alleviated the problem for many Texas citizens. 

Even the Michigan Republican legislature is making an effort to find a compromise which will allow the state to take advantage of at least a large portion of the assistance from the federal government. The plan in Michigan accepts federal funding, but builds in safeguards. Should the federal assistance be diminished or stopped, able-bodied citizens of Michigan without insurance or other coverage would be required to pay up to 7% of whatever income they had to remain on any federally subsidized health insurance program for the poor, or they would be required to purchase federally subsidized private insurance. This would assure that even if the Affordable Care Act ceased to operate as intended, the State of Michigan would not have to bear the burden of continued health care alone. 

It is obvious Governor Perry wants to burnish his credentials as one of the most conservative governors in the nation, but he should not want to do it at the expense of sick children. It seems to me that any humane person--a conservative, even--would want to explore alternatives rather than simply turning a blind eye to the billions of dollars available through a federal program, or turning a deaf ear to the pleadings of many medical experts as well as to the pleadings of Texans who are in need of adequate health care coverage.

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