Stingy Perry 'Cemented' Texas's Status as Health Care Pariah State, Says NY Times

September 8th, 2011 10:13 AM

G.O.P. Stands On Health Mask Records As Governors,” Kevin Sack’s story Sunday on how three current or former G.O.P. governors implemented health care in their states, led the Sunday national section of the New York Times. As usual, Gov. Perry got his share of brickbats, this time for supposedly depriving his citizens of health insurance and prenatal care through state stinginess. (The subject also came up at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night.)

The three most prominent current or former governors running for president -- Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Jon M. Huntsman Jr. -- are firmly united in their commitment to repealing President Obama’s health care law. But that unanimity masks a broad divergence in their approaches to the issue while in office, spanning the spectrum of Republican positioning.


Mr. Perry, by contrast, eschewed direct efforts to expand coverage in Texas and cemented its status as the state with the highest rate of people without insurance.

When Mr. Perry succeeded George W. Bush in December 2000, about 22 percent of Texans had no insurance, second only to New Mexico. After Mr. Perry’s decade in office, Texas now claims the highest uninsured rate, at 26 percent, as well as other distinctions like the lowest rate of prenatal care.

Regardless, Mr. Perry has offered few initiatives to extend coverage. Instead, under the banner of state sovereignty, he has waged a running battle against the ballooning cost and structure of Medicaid, which covers more than a third of Texas children. At various points, Mr. Perry and the Republican-controlled Legislature have cut Medicaid benefits and provider reimbursement rates and made enrollment more onerous.

Sack took pains to poke holes in Texas’s record on health coverage, including the state's efforts at medical tort reform.

In working papers, the researchers assert that tort reform significantly reduced the number and cost of liability claims. But they found no evidence that it slowed the growth of health care costs.

Mr. Perry has railed against the 2010 federal health law as “socialism on American soil” and strongly backs litigation challenging its requirement that most Americans, starting in 2014, obtain insurance.

But his state agencies have accepted nearly $20 million in grants authorized by the act, including $1 million to plan for the new insurance marketplaces known as exchanges. Nonetheless, Mr. Perry this year persuaded the Legislature to shelve a Republican bill to begin the planning process.