DALLAS – Texas has the sovereign right to keep the very worst health
care in the country, Gov. Rick Perry insisted on Monday.
Then he boldly blamed the finding that we have more uninsured people, and rank last in just about every known way to measure care, on a federal government that supposedly “doesn’t like Texas to begin with.’’ One in four Texans lack health insurance, so why would we want federal help?
Yes, we knew Monday was going to be “buck the federal government day’’ in Texas; everyone has been stoked for a big showdown this week when federal judges started a hearing on the Texas voter ID law. (Critics loved the prequel, which had the same plot but was set in South Carolina.)
But who knew we were going to get a double-feature?
Even as the state’s top lawyers battled the US Justice Department over voter ID, Perry launched a battle against “Obamacare” on Fox News.
First, he told the interviewer that our state won’t participate in health care expansion because the real issue is freedom: “We’re just not going to be a part of socializing health care in the state of Texas.’’
That means Texas won’t expand Medicaid or establish a marketplace for consumers to shop for insurance — two major facets of the Affordable Care Act that were upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this month.
He’s now the sixth Republican governor to say no to participation in the Medicaid expansion.
But he distinguished himself in disputing the premise of a fair-minded question about our state’s millions of uninsured residents.
“Every Texan has health care in this state,’’ Perry maintained. “From the standpoint of having access to health care, every Texan has that.’’
“How we pay for it and how we deliver it should be our decision, not some bureaucrat in Washington D.C. that may have never been to Texas day in their life…trying to mandate this one-size fits all kind of health care.”
That’s an extra bold statement, coming less than a week after Texas ranked worst in the nation in health care services and delivery, according to an annual scorecard issued by the federal Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.
“Rated "weak" or "very weak" in nine of 12 health delivery categories, Texas dropped from 47th place in 2010 to 51st in 2011, behind all other
states and Washington, D.C.,’’ according to the Houston Chronicle.
The lead author of the federal study told the Chronicle that one factor in the ranking was the high proportion of residents who lack any form of health insurance.
In fact, Texas has the nation’s highest rate of uninsured people; more than 25 percent of Texans lack medical coverage.
But when the Fox interviewer asked about that, Perry simply disputed the findings.
“The idea that this federal government, which doesn’t like Texas to begin with, can pick and choose and come up with some data and say somehow Texas has the worst health care system in the world is just fake and false on its face,’’ Perry said.
Perhaps the TV interviewer was going to grill Perry about why he thinks the feds “don’t like” Texas. Or about what he meant when he said that “every Texan has health care in this state.’’
It would have been fascinating.
But at that point, Perry had fiddled so much with his television earpiece that the Fox anchor interrupted the interview to ask: “Are you OK with your hearing, by the way? Are you able to hear us all right, Governor?’’
Perry stopped fiddling and completed the interview. It seemed as though he heard every question.
In Texas, on this day, our leader picked his battles. Just because the feds say the state has the nation’s worst health care doesn’t mean we have to believe it. Nor do we have to believe those statistics about the highest percentage of uninsured Texans.
We put our energy behind a larger, less-intrusive mission: requiring every voter to get a photo ID.
Lori Stahl covers politics and culture in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LoriStahl.