DALLAS -- The time is drawing closer for Texas lawmakers to decide if they should expand Medicaid, the health insurance program for the low income, under the federal health care law.
Governor Rick Perry, along with other top Republican leaders including U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, said "no" again Monday, but increasingly, supporters of the expansion say millions would benefit and it would mean more jobs.
Whether to expand Medicaid in Texas under the Affordable Care Act is a serious issue, especially regarding children. If the state took the money, about 438,000 more children would get health care over the next 10 years.
But, in stating again at an Austin news conference he opposes Medicaid expansion, Perry noted Monday was April Fool's Day, which "makes it perfect to discuss something as foolish as Medicaid expansion."
About 40 protesters showed up at the Republicans' appearance, shouting "Health care now!" and "Let us in!" outside the governor's Texas capital office.
Perry said expanding Medicaid would cost taxpayers billions more and threaten the state economy. Sen. Cruz said facing higher health care costs, some businesses have cut hiring.
"If you do find a job, more and more employers are dropping health insurance coverage," he said.
Perry said Texas would not be "held hostage" by the Obama administration, which backs the health care reform.
But a growing number of groups (among them those representing Texas doctors and hospitals) say Medicaid expansion would be good for the state, increasing the number of people who'd get health care. One study, done for supporters, found that the expansion would actually create jobs - 231,000 of them - by 2016.
Democratic lawmakers quickly responded to Perry and the Republicans.
"This is federal money that is going to be spent whether we opt into the program or not," said Rep. Joaquin Castro, the new South Texas congressman. "In other words, if we don't reclaim our federal dollars that Texas taxpayers are paying, they are going to go to other states."
Joaquin Castro, along with his brother, Mayor of San Antonio Julian Castro, said Medicaid expansion was "the right thing to do" and it would help one million poor, uninsured people.
Whether to expand Medicaid hits the floor Thursday when the Texas House of Representatives starts debating the state budget.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.