In press conferences around the state on Thursday, Texas House Democrats previewed the healthcare policy they would be fighting for in the 2021 legislative session.
The “Affordable Healthcare For Every Texan Plan” would expand Medicaid, extend Medicaid coverage for children, and expand women’s healthcare, including overturning Republican legislation that has targeted the funding of abortion providers.
Texas Democrats have pushed or played defense on those issues for years, but as Election Day nears, they are making it clear fighting for them and more will depend on flipping nine statehouse seats to win a majority in the lower chamber.
The pandemic, as well as a looming Supreme Court hearing over a Texas-led lawsuit to end the Affordable Care Act, has strengthened healthcare as a top priority for Democrats in competitive races across the state.
“Make no mistake, healthcare is on the ballot this November,” said state Rep. Celia Israel of Austin in the press conference broadcast to viewers on Zoom.
State Rep. Rhetta Bowers of Garland said that because President Trump and Gov. Greg Abbot have refused to follow the science and data, the virus has lingered in the state at rates far worse than other places in the world, and has hit Texas communities of colors particularly hard.
“Fighting COVID-19 requires a strong, robust healthcare system,” Bowers said, explaining that an insured, healthy population of Texans will help better fight the virus and prevent healthcare providers from being overwhelmed.
State Rep. John Bucy III of Austin critcized Republicans for refusing to expand Medicaid in prior legislative sessions. In 2019, Bucy introduced an amendment to expand Medicaid, but it was voted down along party lines, 66-80.
Texas is one of 12 states that has not adopted the Medicaid expansion offered by the Affordable Care Act, passing up on more than $100 billion in federal funding to pay for the healthcare of impoverished Texans. Some states that have successfully adopted the Medicaid expansion, like Nebraska and Utah, have seen the issue put to voters. In July, Bucy penned an op-ed in the Austin-American Statesman pushing to allow Texas voters to do the same in a ballot initiative.
“Medicaid expansion is a federal law that we already paid for,” Bucy said Thursday. “Our Texas tax dollars go to fund Medicaid expansion, but because the people that lead this state and capital refuse to expand it, we’re playing politics with your tax dollars, and we’re sending it to other states such as California and New York — states that passed Medicaid expansion.”
Expanding Medicaid would also allow for the opportunity of state-sponsored universal health care plans or other innovative health care policies. More than a dozen state legislatures across the country have seen bills filed for their state-sponsored single-payer plans, with many of those bills attempting to consolidate federal funds from Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act to provide universal coverage.
Aside from healthcare, the other top issue facing the legislature will be that of redistricting, where new congressional and state district lines will be drawn that will remain for a decade.
In 2018, Democrats flipped 12 seats in the Texas House and U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke won a majority of state legislative districts (76-74).
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