Much of the news media coverage of the 86th legislative session that just wrapped has been on what was accomplished. But what about what wasn’t accomplished? What high priority challenges, as measured by public sentiment of both Republicans and Democrats, did legislators not touch?
Like the three prior sessions of the legislature, nothing was done to expand health insurance coverage. Texas is the uninsured capital of the nation.
And zero was done to codify coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, which are threatened by Republicans from President Trump on down to U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov Dan Patrick– all of whom want to shred the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s just kind of astonishing that in the state with the worst uninsured percentage and the biggest uninsured number, and the worst rate for children, that none of our state leaders have identified that as a problem or suggested that we should do anything about that,” Ann Beeson, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, told the Texas Signal.
Beeson said that when reviewing this year’s legislative session, no policy was passed that addresses the fact that 17.3 percent of the state, or 4.8 million Texans, don’t have health insurance.
“They did not attack it at all,” Beeson said. “Nor has the governor, lt. governor, or speaker, or chairman of the relevant committees in the house or senate— none of them have ever even stated that it’s a problem that we have the worst uninsured stats in the country, nor have they suggested that the legislature has a responsibility to be part of the solution.”
That reality is far from the rhetoric that was promised before this year’s legislative session.
In 2018, Gov. Abbott said, “Texas will strive to expand health care insurance coverage, reduce the cost of health care and ensure that Texans with pre-existing conditions are protected.”
Texas Democrats proposed their own plans this year that would have tackled Texas’ uninsured rate and protecting insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions, something that is supported by a majority of Texans. The plans went nowhere in the GOP-dominated legislature.
Earlier this month, congressional Democrats in Washington passed a bill to bring down prescription drug costs and protect people with preexisting conditions, like cancer or asthma.
The measure received no— as in zero —votes from Republicans.
The 2020 campaign
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin area Republican consultant who served as John Cornyn’s campaign manager during his 2014 Senate run, told us that he believed Republicans would center healthcare issues more prominently heading into 2020.
He said that Democrats had done a better job at letting their voters know healthcare is a top issue.
Democrats who have announced campaigns for office next year, including Gina Ortiz Jones, MJ Hegar, have made health care a seminal issue.
So far, the overwhelming evidence shows Republicans— who have failed to pass plans in Texas or in Washington after more than a decade of opposing the Affordable Care Act— just aren’t that into health care.