There’s still a ways to go.
Even without the help of a formal Medicaid expansion, it appears that more Texas residents are benefitting from the healthcare program. Here’s the somewhat surprising news from the Texas Tribune…
More than 80,000 additional Texans have enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act last fall despite Republican state leaders’ decision not to expand eligibility to poor adults, according to federal figures.
The 80,435 new enrollees as of May — mostly Texans who already qualified for coverage but did not previously seek it — represent a 1.8 percent increase over pre-Obamacare figures. That places Texas, which has the nation’s highest uninsured rate, in the middle of the pack among states that chose not to expand access to those programs to everyone under 138 percent of the federal poverty line under the president’s signature health law. The expansion, a key tenet of Obamacare, was deemed optional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
This “woodwork effect” or “welcome mat effect” — in which people hear about Medicaid expansions around the country and learn they qualify in Texas — has not been huge. Roughly 874,000 Texans eligible for Medicaid or CHIP have still not enrolled, according to Kaiser Family Foundation estimates. That includes more than 700,000 children, said Christine Sinatra, state communications director for Enroll America, a group seeking to get the uninsured covered under the federal health law.
Though the Tribune says that the “woodwork effect” is not significant yet, there’s still time to get information out there. It’s quite surprising that these issues haven’t been discussed by Texas Democrats yet, especially major office seekers like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte. Not only should the campaigns be seeking broader healthcare expansion options, but one would hope they and the campaigns could spread the word, and help get these people signed up for Medicaid and CHIP. 700,000 Texas kids should not have to go without essential health services. Win or lose in the 2014 election, this is work that needs to get done.