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Texas GOP To Challenge Healthcare Plan In Court

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-892173.mp3

Dallas, TX – Texas' Republican leaders say the sweeping new healthcare legislation is unconstitutional and the state will challenge it in court. KERA's Shelley Kofler has more on Texas reaction to the bill and how it often splits along political party lines.

Republican Governor Rick Perry blasted the health care overhaul as a "gross federal overreach," that's "expanding socialism on American soil." Perry is running for reelection with an anti-Washington, states' rights message, and he's cheering on Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott who says Texas will join other states in a lawsuit that challenges the legislation's constitutionality.

Abbott: This is the first time Congress has ever ordered Americans to purchase a good or service and to penalize them for not doing so.

Abbott claims the federal government cannot require Texans to buy health insurance because the U.S. Constitution doesn't give Washington that right.

Abbott: Because they don't have that authority they are encroaching on states' rights under the tenth amendment.

Abbott says Texas and a number of other states' will file their case in Florida as soon as the President signs the legislation.

The GOP's opposition is bolstered by the Texas Medical Association. The TMA says it opposes the legislation in part because it doesn't increase the reimbursement doctors receive when they treat seniors on Medicare.

Dr. Susan Bailey of Fort Worth is the TMA's incoming president. She says Medicare reimbursement is so low many doctors won't accept new Medicare patients.

Bailey: In the metroplex, if you retire and move to our wonderful area and try to find a new primary care physician, good luck. And if the Medicare reimbursement isn't fixed that is going to get worse.

On the other side of the debate are Democrats like Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas who voted for the bill.

Johnson: For far too long people have been victims of insurance companies and this is a step in the right direction.

Johnson says millions more will have care because insurers can't deny coverage when people get sick. They can't refuse to cover children with pre-existing conditions or impose a lifetime cap on how much they'll cover.

Like Johnson, the Center for Public Policy Priorities says Texas, the state with the largest uninsured population, is among the biggest winners with this legislation. The Center advocates for low- and middle-income Texans. Its health policy analyst Anne Dunkelberg believes the legislation will provide coverage for three-quarters of Texas' uninsured. That's about 4.5 million Texans.

Dunkelberg: The majority of folks who gain insurance under health reform are expected to gain it from private insurance. The big changes that will happen will be changing the private health insurance market place especially the creation of a new health insurance exchange where n one can be turned down and no one can be charged more because of their health status.

Dunkelberg says a smaller number of low income people will gain health insurance through the expansion of Medicaid. Dunkelberg says the federal government would pay the entire tab for new Medicaid coverage for three years. Beginning in 2017 states would have to pick up as much as 10 percent of the additional cost. Opponents claim the expansion of Medicaid would break the state's budget. But Dunkelberg calls it a great deal because the federal government would give Texas nine dollars for every new Medicaid dollar it spends.

Email Shelley Kofler