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Local leaders say Texas gov. decision on Medicaid expansion hurts El Paso taxpayers
By: Genevieve Curtis
EL PASO: Texas- El Paso taxes rise and will continue to do so after Gov. Rick Perry takes a stand against accepting billions from the federal government to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Local leaders said the Texas governor's stand puts pressure on local taxpayers, especially in a community with more than 250,000 uninsured.
"The federal government was willing to provide Medicaid to the state of Texas which would have provided a 150,000 El Pasoans with health insurance. The federal government was going to cover the costs for the first three years 100 percent after that they would cover 90 percent and the state would only cover 10 percent," said El Paso County Commissioner Vince Perez.
Instead, more of the El Pasoan's tax dollar will go to pay for the care of the uninsured at University Medical Center.
"These are services that we have to provide to the community; we can't turn away people when they go to the emergency room. UMC can't turn away people when they go to the emergency room," said Perez.
On Monday, commissioners voted to increase that tax rate for the hospital district by more than 10 percent. It amounts to about $20 per every $100,000 home evaluation.
Perez said its not fair to the taxpayers who have health insurance, now expected to pay more to help fund others' insurance.
"The governors decision, is ultimately hurting El Paso. It's decisions like that. That put increased pressure on taxpayers because if we had more people with health insurance we'd have more people who would go to the emergency room or a doctor's visit who can afford to pay. But we don't. And the fact that the governor continues to put us in this position is exactly why we have this increased tax burden. It's not fair to our community," said Perez.
Part of the increase in taxes for the hospital district has to do with UMC's plan to open more clinics and provide affordable care to people before they end up in the emergency room where it is more costly.
"So the goal with the clinics is to provide an alternative model. People can go to the doctor, it's much cheaper hopefully it will ultimately leave to healthier outcomes. We are in a very difficult situation today but my hope is that in a few years down the road we will be in a much better position where we won't see all of this pressure put on the property taxpayers because it's simply not fair," said Perez.
The burden to taxpayers and the state is why Perez said states like neighboring New Mexico, also led by a Republican governor, have chosen to accept the federal Medicaid expansion.
"That's why you are seeing states such as New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, New Jersey who all have Republican governors, they have accepted this money because they're no fools. They realize this will be a huge impact to the state. Imagine if we had, overnight, 150,000 people with health insurance, what would that do to our economy," said Perez.
For his part, Perry has said he plans to ask for a grant block from the federal government to reform Medicaid within the state of Texas.