Dallas leaders pushing for Medicaid expansion

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on June 6, 2014 at 7:14 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 6 at 7:14 PM

DALLAS COUNTY -- Nathan Robinson, 47, hasn't been able to hold a steady job after seriously injuring his shoulders years ago.

After being on a waiting list at Parkland Hospital for surgery on his rotator cuff, Robinson's job let him go because he didn’t have vacation or sick time. Without health insurance, he expects taxpayers will foot the bill for the operation.

“And that is a very hard thing,” Robinson said.

Adult men, no matter how poor, rarely qualify for Medicaid in Texas.

“It’s pregnant women,” said Brianna Brown of the Texas Organizing Project. "If you're a child, you're eligible [for Medicaid.] Seniors are eligible, and then some folks who are disabled are eligible."

Brown and members of the Texas Organizing Project are among those actively lobbying politicians up for election to expand Medicaid coverage on behalf of the working poor, including men like Robinson. He would qualify, should Texas expand Medicaid.

Texas is one of 20 states nationwide to refuse the government’s offer to expand Medicaid. Four states are still considering the issue.

Texas turned away billions in guaranteed federal funds to pay for the program.

"It's nurses assistants, cashiers, cooks,” Brown said, “people who are working, who make below the federal poverty line. So it would have been able to impact a huge breadth of people here in Texas."

About a million-and-a-half Texans would be covered. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 130,000 are Dallas County residents.

"It's the right thing to do for 133,000 people who are having to stand in line to get emergency care right now,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Jenkins spent two days in Austin this week talking to political committees and candidates about Medicaid expansion. He said he is not only campaigning for the uninsured, but that hospitals and taxpayers would also benefit.

“It would bring an additional 1.4 million into our hospitals every single day to take care of those 133,000 people,” Jenkins said of the additional reimbursements that would come from Medicaid.

“And it's the right thing to do for our taxpayers,” he added, “who are spending more money at Parkland for uncompensated care than for all other county services combined.”

Nathan Robinson said if he had insurance, or qualified for Medicaid, he would have been able to get his shoulder surgeries long ago. He said he might be able to afford his own insurance today and not rely on taxpayer charity.

"If you're sick and you can't get the services you need, then consequently you can't get a good job,” Robinson said. “It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up.”

Instead, Nathan Robinson is at home, jobless. He expects Parkland, and taxpayers, to pay most of the bill for a surgery on his other shoulder in the near future.

Without a job, Robinson said he reads the Bible a lot, praying that Texas expands Medicaid.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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