Texas’ rejection of Medicaid Expansion leaves state’s families, economy vulnerable

SAN ANTONIO—Today, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held an afternoon press conference to announce the findings of the NCLR report, “Closing the Health Care Coverage Gap in Texas: A Latino Perspective.” The report details the negative impact of not expanding Medicaid in Texas, particularly its effects on Latinos, who represent 50 percent of the state’s uninsured.

Texas is home to the nation’s highest population of uninsured Americans; nearly one quarter of the state lacked coverage in 2012. While the Affordable Care Act is helping to close the insurance coverage gap by offering affordable plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace, the state of Texas has chosen to reject federal aid to help expand eligibility for the Medicaid program, even though the funding would have fully covered the first three years of the program’s expansion. Already, eligibility for Medicaid in the state of Texas ranks among the most restrictive in the country: To qualify, a working family of four must make less than $4,500 in yearly income.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 600,000 Hispanics who would have otherwise qualified for Medicaid will be denied coverage as a result of the state’s rejection of federal funding to help expand the program’s eligibility requirements. Given the statistically higher rate of chronic diseases among Latinos, that population is particularly vulnerable to the effects of the coverage gap. Supporters of Medicaid expansion include a cross-section of health, community and business leaders. As a recent poll conducted by the Texas Hospital Association demonstrated, 54 percent of Texas voters believe the state should expand health coverage, while 60 percent favored Medicaid expansion after learning it would be fully funded for the first three years by the federal government

“Despite broad public support and the clear economic benefits of Medicaid expansion—including an estimated boost in the state’s economic output by $67.9 billion during fiscal years 2014–2017 and generating an additional 231,000 jobs in Texas by 2016—the state of Texas has chosen to reject federal funding to expand the program and has yet to bring forth a viable alternative to bridge the coverage gap,” said Leticia de la Vara, Senior Strategist, NCLR. “It is unacceptable that our most vulnerable populations and the very workers we count on to stimulate the state’s economic engine lack the critical coverage that they need to remain healthy,” continued de la Vara.

“It’s time to take a step in the right direction and expand access to care for more Texans; it’s the right thing to do to move Texas forward,” said Ramiro Cavazos, President and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Expanding access to health care will help create robust communities, allowing opportunities to reduce incidences of persistent health concerns.”

NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For more information on NCLR, please visit www.nclr.org or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is San Antonio’s leading resource and advocate for Hispanic businesses, Hispanics in business, and provides premiere access to the Hispanic market.  Founded in 1929, the Hispanic Chamber’s mission is to help small businesses grow, expand international trade, raise educational levels, develop new leaders and represent the interests of the growing Hispanic community. For more information on the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber, please visit www.sahcc.org.

Click here to download the study.