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Perry Stands Firm on Rejecting Medicaid Expansion

Bob Daemmrich

Just six months ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Gov. Rick Scott were fishing together on FoxNews, pitching then-presidential contender Mitt Romney’s Medicare plan and arguing that decisions about health care should be made by states, not the federal government.

On Wednesday, Scott reversed course, joining a growing number of Republican governors who are reluctantly embracing the key tenet of President Obama’s federal health reform — a sweeping Medicaid expansion.

“While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost,” Scott said at a press conference, “I cannot in good conscience deny Floridians that needed access to healthcare.”

If the pressure is getting to Perry — in addition to Scott, six other Republican governors, from Ohio’s John Kasich to Arizona’s Jan Brewer, now support accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid to cover poor adults — he’s not letting on.

“The governor’s position has not changed,” his spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said on Wednesday night. “It would be irresponsible to add more Texans and dump more taxpayer dollars into an unsustainable system that is broken and already consumes a quarter of our budget.”

Florida is a big coup for the Obama administration; the state led the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — which resulted in a Supreme Court ruling upholding the measure but making the Medicaid expansion optional — and 1 million residents there would gain health coverage under it.

But Texas would be a bigger one. Bipartisan analyses indicate Texas could draw down $100 billion in federal funds over 10 years if the state put up $15 billion, expanding health care coverage to an additional 2 million people. In Texas, roughly a quarter of the population is uninsured. 

"When people ask my why I am so optimistic about [a] Medicaid expansion in Texas, it's because I know that the arguments for expansion transcend politics," state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said in a statement following Scott's announcement. "... The people of Florida should be proud of their governor today for making the right choice." 

Emily Ramshaw investigates state agencies and covers social services for KUT's political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune. Previously, she spent six years reporting for The Dallas Morning News, first in Dallas, then in Austin. In April 2009 she was named Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Headliners Foundation of Texas. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she received a bachelor's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
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