Perry’s Titanic Blunder

The governor rejects Medicaid expansion and then embarrasses himself on Fox News


Eileen Smith

To expand Medicaid is “not unlike adding 1,000 people to the Titanic.”—Rick Perry on Fox News, July 9

In a strongly worded and entirely predictable letter Monday to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Gov. Rick Perry announced his intention to reject any expansion of the Medicaid program in Texas or the creation of a state health insurance exchange, two key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that Perry refers to as “brazen intrusions into the sovereignty of our state.” Looks like it’s time to dust off the muskets and prepare to defend Texas’s sovereignty! Again!

“We in Texas have no intention to implement so-called state exchanges or to expand Medicaid under Obamacare,” Perry said in a statement. “I will not be party to socializing healthcare and bankrupting my state in direct contradiction to our Constitution and our founding principles of limited government. I stand proudly with the growing chorus of governors who reject the Obamacare power grab. Neither a ‘state’ exchange nor the expansion of Medicaid under this program would result in better ‘patient protection’ or in more ‘affordable care.’ They would only make Texas a mere appendage of the federal government when it comes to health care.”

As for the health care act being “in direct contradiction to our Constitution,” Perry clearly missed the part where the Supreme Court ruled that the law is…constitutional. Although the court did rule that the federal government couldn’t penalize states that choose to opt out of the Medicaid expansion, the implementation of health insurance exchanges is mandatory. States refusing to create the exchanges will see the federal government stepping in and doing it for them. How embarrassing. Not that Perry is easily embarrassed.

In an interview Monday on Fox News, Perry was caught off-guard by a hard-hitting question posed by one of the many interchangeable female blond newscasters there: “If part of your goal is to keep the federal government out of the lives of Texans, then why give them that power?” Perry responded by not responding, saying only that Medicaid is a failed program and increasing enrollment is “like adding 1,000 people to the Titanic.” When asked what his solution would be to the health care crisis, he suggested that if the federal government “was serious about working with the states” they would provide the funding in no-strings-attached block grants, the default conservative proposal on how to best fix (or, more accurately, cut) Medicaid. Block grant funding would provide Texas greater leeway in how it allocates its resources while stripping poor and disabled Texans of their benefits. Well someone’s got to be the loser.

But where Perry really got it wrong in the Fox interview was his assertion that “every Texan has health care in this state from the standpoint of being able to have access to healthcare.” That’s like saying that every Texan has food in this state from the standpoint of being able to have access to the grocery store. It doesn’t mean the more than six million Texans who are uninsured can actually afford it. And who but our governor has access to experimental adult stem cell spinal infusions? According to a new study released by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, Texas ranks dead last in health care services and delivery. Texas Medicaid is also one of the most limited and strictest programs in the country. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission projects that the state would actually see a net gain of $70 billion over five years if it expanded its Medicaid program. That sounds like some sort of trick.

In the end it looks like Perry would rather go down with the ship than work with the federal government on health care. And he’s taking millions of uninsured Texans down with him.