Texas opts out of key Affordable Care Act provisions

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth, Texas. Perry has spent much of the past three years publicly, loudly and defiantly fighting against what he views as Washington meddling in state affairs, often refusing to cooperate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and becoming a leader in the battle against President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Texas is jumping ship on two key provisions in President Barack Obama’s health care law, becoming the fifth state to declare it will not enforce the law within its boundaries.

Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday morning that Texas will not accept federal funding to uphold key provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a controversial law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. Perry sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stating his opposition to both the Medicaid expansion and the creation of a state health insurance exchange program. Perry said he stands with a “growing chorus” of governors who reject these changes, including those in Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

According to the law, if a state does not accept either of these policies, the federal government has the ability to enact its own one-size-fits-all health care approach to the states.

In his letter to the Secretary of State, Perry said he believes the Obama Administration’s heath care policy will make states too dependent on the federal government rather than provide better health care.

“Neither a ’state’ exchange nor the expansion of Medicaid under the Orwellian-named PPACA would result in better ‘patient protection’ or in more ‘affordable care,’” Perry wrote in the letter. “What they would do is make Texas a mere appendage of the federal government when it comes to health care.”

In an interview on Fox News this morning, Perry said a decision to continue to the expand Medicaid would only further drive the country into debt.

“The bottom line here is that Medicaid is a failed program,” Perry said on Fox News. “To expand this program is not unlike adding a thousand people to the Titanic. You don’t expand a program that is not working already.”

Government professor Bruce Buchanan said he doesn’t see the states holding out for long without making reforms to their Medicaid laws but that very few people are paying attention to the long-term details.

“We have a certain-sized Medicaid population right now,” Buchanan said. “The new law was to extend that to other people right now who are under a certain level of income, which is the new law Perry and the others are rejecting. If those people are not allowed into the new Medicaid law, they are denied access to any part of it. You’re fixing to dispossess millions of citizens, and that’s not going to be easy to sustain.”

Danny Zeng, government and finance senior and communications director for UT’s College Republicans chapter, said Gov. Perry’s decision to stand up for states’ rights to handle their own health care is ultimately a positive one.

“It’s more of a statement saying that in regards to this controversial act, where a lot of states and governors are uncertain about their state budgets, they really don’t want to pollute the state budget even more,” Zeng said. “I fully support Gov. Perry’s decision.”

Zeng said he doesn’t foresee opposing states accepting federal intervention without doing everything they can to halt the bill entirely.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I do believe there will be more lawsuits coming on,” Zeng said. “I think before the federal government comes in, Texas as well as other states will put up a fight.”

Huey Fischer, government junior and president of UT’s University Democrats chapter, said Perry’s decision not to accept Medicaid funds is not surprising given his past decisions to reject federal programs.

“It just sounds like he’s playing politics in order to pit the states against the federal government,” Fischer said. “Gov. Perry did this with Race to the Top Fund, and he’s done this with other things as well, and it just ends up hurting people.”

Fischer said Perry is ignoring the true issue of health care reform in favor of making a political statement for Texas.

“It seems like the Republican leadership in this state tends to put politics over real issues more often than not,” Fischer said. “With [Attorney General] Greg Abbott’s lawsuits, he’s spending so much money to go after this bill, and it’s really all just political posturing.”