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Medicaid Expansion Moves Forward in Oklahoma. Will Texas Follow Suit?

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Oklahoma officials are seriously considering expanding Medicaid in that state under the Affordable Care Act. That means all of the states surrounding Texas – including New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana – could soon have expanded Medicaid programs. During a meeting at the Capitol yesterday, advocates said it’s an opportunity for Texas officials to revisit this issue back home.

State officials in both Oklahoma and Texas have been ideologically opposed to expanding Medicaid. But Oklahoma is facing a serious budget shortfall thanks to rising health care costs in the state.

So, they’re looking at expanding Medicaid to cover those costs, and the only reason Texas isn’t in this exact situation is because we got a special deal from the federal government. But it’s temporary, and Anne Dunkelberg with the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities told lawmakers on Monday that is why the state needs to start thinking about expanding Medicaid, too.

“We just need to have an open mind about the flexibility that we do have,” Dunkelberg said.

Because Texas isn’t under the gun right now, officials can make long term plans about how to deal with upcoming changes to how the federal government pays for health care. But as the County Affairs Committee Chair – Houston Democratic Rep. Garnet Coleman – pointed out, it’s probably going to have to be a more conservative plan.

“Policymakers in Texas feel that anything we do that allows care either through insurance or some other mechanism, that it fits the values of their values," Coleman said.

Federal officials have signaled they won’t continue covering the cost of the state’s uninsured population indefinitely, and the feds argue the state could reduce its uninsured population by expanding Medicaid to more adults in the state.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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