Healthcare and Medicaid Perspectives
Recently, I attended two days of conferences in Austin, Texas. This was the annual conference for the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). The non-partisan organization examines each issue facing Texas with a keen eye for the pros and cons. Thousands of hours are invested in research each year, yielding an overview of suggested optimum solutions. The Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute have long been a part of their efforts and participated this year. This conference, like the other events sponsored by the TPPF throughout the year was very well-attended by legislators and writers from across Texas.
What I found in this conference, was a multitude of ideas that could be used by many states in efforts to combat fiscal problems and Federal Overreach. The topics covered, represented a wide range of known challenges confronting the Texas Legislature and people of Texas this year. This author chose to attend healthcare, state budget, and energy sessions as a focus.
The first session of note revolved around Healthcare Exchanges: Good Deal or Raw Deal? Distinguished panelists for this discussion included several persons of note, including Senior Research Fellow Edmund Haislmaier. For those of you who are unaware, Mr. Haislmaier has been leading the way in his research for the Heritage Foundation in the area of Healthcare. I might add this session was moderated by the Honorable Arlene Wohlgemuth, Executive Director and Director of the Center for Health Care Policy at the TPPF. Ms. Wohlgemuth, has long been recognized as an expert on Healthcare policy.
What we learned is Healthcare exchanges are a necessary component of a complete healthcare policy. My conclusion after hearing the various opinions, is that a Healthcare exchange is a must. All panelists agreed Healthcare exchanges are needed, and Texas and other states should proactively create what is in the best interest of it’s citizens. Texas State Representative, Dr. John Zerwas had already filed legislation in January 2011 to establish a state Healthcare Exchange. In theory, an exchange will enable individuals and small businesses to access the competitive rates enjoyed by large corporations simply by banding together. The interesting point in this discussion is what is created for Rhode Island may not be suitable for Texas or any other state. One size/type does not fit all with Healthcare exchanges, or general Healthcare. This is the importance of each state creating the most applicable solution for their circumstance. Demographic components of the respective state plays a large part in the definition of unique qualities of a state. Whether a state’s population are primarily in urban or rural locations is also a primary consideration as the requirements are defined by a state.
Continuing with the healthcare theme, there was an excellent panel discussion on whether Texas should opt out of Medicaid. It isn’t possible to “opt out” for many reasons. However, there needs to be new definitions considered for Medicaid. The choice is clear. Something must be done this year to address the exploding Medicaid costs. In Texas, Medicaid costs have increased dramatically since 2000. This is without the consideration of Obamacare. In 2000, Medicaid costs for the state of Texas were $11 Billion dollars. In 2011, the costs for Medicaid will exceed $30 Billion dollars. Clearly hard decisions and a new approach needs to be adopted to get the spending under control in Texas. At this time, the state contributes 30% on Medicaid costs and the Federal Government contributes 70%. Everyone voiced concern that the massive Federal deficit is likely to reduce the amount of support from the Federal Government. The state must develop some sort of “safety-net” for the people. The conversation on Medicaid and overall healthcare needs to be redefined. In Texas, State Representative Charlie Howard filed legislation to prevent Obamacare from coming to Texas. The majority of the conservative states are actively fighting to block this travesty of Federal overreach. This is a key component of the state solutions.
I strongly encourage everyone to read available research papers on healthcare policy by the experts. For your convenience, links are included below to the available research. Medicaid is but one troubling aspect of America’s healthcare dilemma. With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare), the Medicaid recipient base will be enlarged dramatically. This will likely collapse the Medicaid system, and bankrupt the majority of the states, if action isn’t taken immediaetly. The time to address healthcare and Medicaid is now, prior to the enactment of the Obamacare law in 2014. Bear in mind much of the challenge for satisfactory solutions is due to constraints placed upon Texas (and the other states) by specific Federal Regulations. The conclusion is the entitlement program of Medicaid is in trouble, and the enactment of the Obamacare law could topple budgets and Medicaid programs across the country.
Honorable Arlene Wohlegemuth at the Texas Public Policy Foundation:
Senior Research Fellow Edmund Haislmaier at the Heritage Foundation:
Senior Fellow, Jagadeesh Gokhale, Cato Institute
Texas State Legislative Information:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”.