According to a New York Times editorial entitled “The Rush to Abandon the Poor”, ”A quarter of the residents of Texas, 6.3 million people, are uninsured, by far the highest percentage in the country. (That number includes more than a million children.) Texas ranks last in prenatal care and finished last on a new federal assessment of overall health quality that examined factors like disease prevention, deaths from illnesses, and cancer treatment.
“Yet Gov. Rick Perry recently told the Obama administration that he would proudly refuse a huge infusion of Medicaid money that would significantly reduce those shameful statistics and cover 1.7 million more people. The same indifference to suffering that pushed Texas to the bottom is now threatening to keep it there.
“At least five other Republican governors have made a similar choice, announcing that they will not expand their Medicaid program for the poor even though the federal government would pay for almost all of it for several years under President Obama’s health care reform law.
“Their refusal illuminates a growing divide over the nature of a state government’s role. Around the country, a new study shows, states continue to face a fiscal crisis because of rising costs and Republican-driven cuts in federal aid.
“While some governors and lawmakers are searching for new revenue sources, others are using the downturn as an excuse to end a long tradition of states being the final backstop for society’s neediest.
… ”Many mainstream Republican governors are taking a different approach. In a letter to the president last week, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said states should think carefully before they reject Washington’s money. Though he remained quite critical of health reform and Medicaid, he also noted that refusing the expansion would create “a significant gap in coverage” for low-income people.
“For now, at least, Virginia recognizes an obligation to its weakest citizens. It’s time for Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa and Louisiana to do the same.