Eyeing a majority in the Texas House, Democrats prioritize Medicaid expansion

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Expand Medicaid. Save Lives.

That message, with candles representing low-income Texans who have died prematurely because of lacking healthcare coverage, will be projected in a video mural on the Governor’s Mansion in Austin Thursday night.

Democrats are again prioritizing Medicaid expansion on the campaign trail as they fight to flip nine Texas House districts in November and secure a majority ahead of the legislative session in 2021.

Projection of video mural on the Governor's Mansion in Austin supporting expanded Medicaid Oct. 1 (KXAN Photo/Andrew Choat)
Projection of video mural on the Governor’s Mansion in Austin supporting expanded Medicaid, Oct. 1 (KXAN Photo/Andrew Choat)

“We have got to expand Medicaid,” said state Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood), who is up for re-election after flipping Texas House District 45 in 2018. “Texas is leaving $10 billion of federal funding on the table every year because we got stubborn in 2009.”

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act since 2010. As of 2020, the federal government covers 90% of costs associated with a state’s expansion of Medicaid, while several states have reported millions of dollars in net savings after expanding Medicaid.

A Texas A&M study estimates around 1 million low-income Texans would gain health insurance coverage if the state expanded Medicaid.

“I know that that might sound odd for my district, because I have a pretty affluent district, but I think that everyone understands that having more Texans uninsured is not good for the state as a whole,” said state Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-Lago Vista).

Republican Justin Berry, a police officer in Austin, is challenging Goodwin in District 47. He wants to see investments in mental health services to help underserved populations, like those experiencing homelessness.

“If now is the opportunity where we can (expand Medicaid) to help provide some quality care for people, then we should definitely look into that, as well, but that shouldn’t be our end-all-be-all, go-to thing,” he said.

Even if Democrats secure a majority in the Texas House this November, they would face a Texas Senate and governor who have opposed Medicaid expansion.

“It’s unlikely to get anywhere past the House if the Democrats were to even take it,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

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