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Texas Bishops Urge State Leaders to Expand Medicaid Eligibility

Liang Shi for KUT
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is urging state leaders to expand Medicaid eligibility.

One of the most conservative groups in Texas is calling on the state to expand Medicaid – a government-run health care program for low-income people. The Affordable Care Act offers states federal dollars to expand Medicaid, but the U.S. Supreme Court made expansion optional and Texas political leaders have decided not to expand.  

But the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is urging those leaders to change their minds. Jeff Patterson, the executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference, says Catholics believe in protecting life, and he says that should mean more than being anti-abortion. 

"That’s being pro-life across the entire spectrum, from birth until natural death," Patterson says. That means health care should be accessible to everyone, he adds.

"So they can live productive lives, and that’s the core of what Jesus taught, it’s the core of Catholic teaching and it’s been that way forever," he says. 

The Texas Catholic Conference sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Joe Straus. [Read a PDF version here.] The bishops focused on the coverage gap – when people make too much for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for subsides on the health care exchanges, or they don't receive health insurance benefits from their employers. More than 1 million Texans could get Medicaid if the state expanded it. So far, the state’s Republican leadership has resisted expansion, calling Medicaid a broken system that already takes up roughly a quarter of the state budget. 

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