Texans Could Pay For State’s Refusal To Expand Medicaid

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TEMPLE (June 5, 2013)--Health care will take center stage in 2014 when the Affordable Care Act takes full effect.

The Affordable Care Act commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” will expand Medicaid coverage to those with income up to the 133% federal poverty line starting January 1, 2014.

States can choose whether to participate in Medicaid expansion. Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin have chosen not to.

However, the choice to not participate in Medicaid expansion may spell disaster for Texas hospitals and taxpayers.

The U.S. Government shells out millions of dollars to states each year to help hospitals cover uninsured hospital visits.

Those millions will be cut in 2014 when the U.S. expands Medicaid eligibility.

Texas hospitals are expected to lose an estimated $56 million in funding designated to cover uninsured visits.

And because Texas isn’t participating in Medicaid expansion, hospitals will be left to discover how to pay for millions of uninsured people that otherwise could benefit from expanding Medicaid eligibility.

Scott and& White Hospital’s Health Care Policy Director Dr. James Rohack says paying for the uninsured will be an uphill battle.

“We roughly have four million people in Texas who are uninsured. That number would be cut in half if we participated in Medicaid expansion,” Dr. Rohack said.

With no federal funding, State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, says the people of Texas could get stuck with paying for uninsured visits.

“This will affect everybody, the hospitals, the patients, taxpayers, everyone,” Anderson said.

“This is a very serious problem and we’re working to find a solution here in Austin.”

Rohack says hospitals in Texas could look to the wallets of taxpayers to help pay for uninsured visits.

Public hospitals can cover uninsured visits by raising property taxes. Private hospitals might negotiate higher premiums with health insurance companies to cover the cost of uninsured visits.

Until Texas works out a Medicaid solution, Rohack says prepare for both to happen.

“If you're in an area with a public hospital, that hospital gets funding through a hospital district, and hospital districts get funding through property taxes and those could go up," Dr. Rohack said.

"If I don't live in a property tax district, private hospitals may push health insurance companies to make me pay higher health insurance premiums for that cost shift."