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Could Medicaid Expansion Boost the Texas Economy?

A taxi driver stretches his legs in Downtown Austin.
A new study from Families USA suggests taxi drivers are among the 1.5 million Texans who would get health insurance if Texas expanded Medicaid eligibility.

If Texas accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid, roughly 1.5 million more people would have health insurance. Now a new study suggests more than half of them are people who work in service industries that help fuel the state’s economy.

The report by Families USA says the people in Texas who’d benefit most from closing the coverage gap are cashiers, drivers, cooks and servers, hotel clerks and construction workers, for example.

Many of them don’t earn enough to qualify for a tax subsidy under the Affordable Care Act, Dee Mahon with Families USA says.

"We found most of the people who’d be helped are working," Mahon says. "Closing the coverage gap by expanding health insurance would help Texans who work in jobs that are the backbone of the state’s economy and that most of us encounter everyday."

John Hawkins with the Texas Hospital Association says he hopes Texas will work with the Center forMedicare and Medicaid services for a state-specific solution, as other Republican-led states have done.

"Not necessarily expanding Medicaid directly, as the Affordable Care Act contemplated it, but really looking at different alternatives that match up to the needs of the working poor, if you will," Hawkins says.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry could decide to negotiate with Washington but a provision passed last year requires the Legislature’s approval beforehand.