Austin's NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bill on Texas Solution to Medicaid Expansion Moves Forward

Nathan Bernier/KUT
The emergency department at Brackenridge Hospital is up and running.

A bill approved today by a Texas House committee would help insure the roughly 6 million Texas residents who don’t have coverage, but not in the way envisioned by the federal Affordable Care Act.

State Rep.  John Zerwas, R-Simonton, says his bill is what he calls a “Texas” solution to the health insurance gap. He adamantly says he’s not for Medicaid expansion.

"To put a million and a half people into the current Medicaid program and expect we’re going to be able to serve those people with a very fragile provider network is just totally wrong," Zerwas said.

His measure would request federal dollars in a block grant to help subsidize private insurance exchanges for low-income Texans who don’t qualify for Medicaid as it is right now in Texas.

But health care policy analyst John Davidson of the Texas Public Policy Foundation says the Affordable Care Act requires states offering a private insurance option also to offer Medicaid benefits to those residents.

"Private insurance is more expensive than Medicaid, so if you have your entire Medicaid expansion population on private insurance and you’re also paying for wrap-around Medicaid benefits, you’re going to end up with a much larger state share once the federal dollars begin to drop off," Davidson said.

Now that the House Appropriations Committee has voted to approve Rep. Zerwas'  bill, the debate will continue in the full Texas House.