Obamacare Could Help Turn Texas Blue

by evanmcmurry

Ezra Klein has a good summary of a Rand report on what’s going to happen to states that refuse Obamacare the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicare:

The study, by the Rand corporation, looks at the 14 states that have said they will opt out of the new Medicaid funds. It finds that the result will be they get $8.4 billion less in federal funding, have to spend an extra $1 billion in uncompensated care, and end up with about 3.6 million fewer insured residents.

So then, the math works out like this: States rejecting the expansion will spend much more, get much, much less, and leave millions of their residents uninsured. That’s a lot of self-inflicted pain to make a political point.

Note that refusing isn’t just bad for the people who don’t get insured. When those people get sick, they will become a drain on publicly-funded services. Which means these states, rather than spend money up front and have healthier people, will spend money later on sicker people. This is the position Rick Perry, et al, are selling as morally and financially responsible.

Klein points to one unintended consequence: poking poor people with a stick might not be such a good idea electorally, especially if the people you’re callously leaving uninsured are part of a demographic that’s already set to imperil your party’s vice-like grip on state government.

In Texas, for instance, 38 percent of the Hispanic population is uninsured. Will having that security so near, and then learning that it’s been blocked by their government, activate that voting bloc in the way Prop 187 did in California? It’s a possibility National Journal columnist Ron Brownstein raised in a recent article. “In 1994, California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson mobilized his base by promoting Proposition 187, a ballot initiative to deny services to illegal immigrants. He won reelection that year—and then lost the war as Hispanics stampeded from the GOP and helped turn the state lastingly Democratic. Texas Republicans wouldn’t be threatened as quickly, but they may someday judge their impending decision on expanding Medicaid as a similar turning point.”

For some time now, Texas GOP town criers have been running around ringing a warning bell  about the growing Hispanic population, and what it will do the GOP’s monopoly if the party doesn’t act. Perry’s war on Medicare expansion will only exacerbate this exodus. I believe that’s what those in the biz call an “unforced error.”