Rick Perry and those like him have long been fond of touting Texas’ great business climate. Of course as a proud Texan, I’m happy to brag about any Texas quality—including our business climate. However, in my opinion, there are ways in which we should not continue to measure a great business climate for our state.
As a first-term legislator, I learned a different definition of “a great business climate.” The definition I learned in the House of Representatives was that whatever special interests with big bucks and big lobbyists wanted, they get.
A close examination of the history of how policy "happens" in the Texas Legislature will support my theory concerning the definition of a great business climate.
Among leading special interests in Texas since the 50's is the insurance industry. State government in Texas has done little if anything to protect consumers, or to see that Texans get fair value for their insurance premiums. Auto rates in our state have consistently been among the highest insurance rates in the United States. Homeowners, especially those of us who live on the coast, have long suffered unfair discrimination for protection of our homesteads.
Rick Perry, Abbott and Dan Patrick, the current Lt. Governor, appear to be dedicated to continue serving special interests while ignoring the people’s needs. Health care is a prime example.
Perry—supported by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott—turned down about $9 billion dollars or more for health care for Texans. Their decision was not made with concern for the best interests of our people or their health, but for their own political standing among rightwing conservative groups. They wanted to show how conservative Mr. Perry was in his quest for the presidency of the United States.
Those of you who have chosen to vote Republican here in Southeast Texas should be aware of part of the price you are paying for the Abbott-Perry-Patrick definition of a good business climate. Opting our state out of the Affordable Care Act has cost Orange County its Memorial Hospital and Port Arthur its St. Mary Hospital. And the conservative Republican stance on health care has denied millions of Texas children adequate health care in Texas alone.
Even the health care and insurance we do have is poorly regulated. A recent example of our state’s failure to protect citizens can be seen in a case where Preferred Provider, aka Texas Blue, terminated individual health plans without prior notice. Their stated cause was that the plan was losing money. The prompt closing left thousands of Texans without any coverage. Examination of the company revealed they had collected over $28 billion dollars in premiums, and their own financial report revealed they had paid their chief executive a 10 million dollar bonus over his very generous salary. At the same time, the company’s financial report showed $10 billion dollars in reserve. Think about whether or not you consider a state policy that allows this kind of profiteering to occur at the expense of its citizens to be a great business climate for Texas.
Currently, rightwing candidates for president continue to babble about repeal of the Affordable Care Act with no specific plan to provide healthcare for United States citizens. The yammering crowd who hates Obamacare, and anything else he did, continue to argue that healthcare should be left to the free market and not to interfere with the relationship between patients and their doctors. They never seem to discuss the fact there is no clear, easy relationship between you and your doctor when it's always interfered with by which doctor your insurance carrier (if you have insurance) will choose to pay or not.
The free market is not “free” when it comes to health care. Generally, the free market occurs when buyers and sellers are free to deal at arm’s length to negotiate price and terms of whatever product or service is being bought or sold. Imagine yourself on the hospital gurney about to be subjected to surgery. Do you really think you have any standing to negotiate price when your doctor says, “Take these pills or die.” Have you ever said, “Wait a minute. I want to negotiate and see if I can get a better deal somewhere else.” Our current conservative Congress has even seen fit to prohibit us as a country from even negotiating the price of drugs, particularly for those of us on Medicare.
It seems to me these kinds of attitudes—particularly as promoted by our own state government—follow the wrong definition of "a great business climate."