Earlier this year, soon after Rick Perry (R) stepped down from Texas’ gubernatorial office, he acknowledged his state’s high uninsured rate, but said it didn’t matter.
“Texas has been criticized for having a large number of uninsured,” Perry said, “but that’s what Texans wanted.”
Of course, the notion that Texans “wanted” the worst uninsured rate in the nation seems a little hard to believe. As we talked about at the time, why exactly would anyone, anywhere actually want their state to have an uninsured rate above 20%, leaving millions of families without access to basic medical care, one serious ailment away from bankruptcy?
Yesterday on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pressed Perry further on this point. The Republican presidential candidate’s response was pretty amazing, even by Perry standards (thanks to Xenos for the heads-up).
WALLACE: One more question about Main Street or looking out for the little guy. When you were governor of Texas, your state had the highest uninsured rate in the country. One in five, more than one in five Texans didn’t have health coverage, and yet you refused to set up a state exchange under Obamacare. You refused to expand Medicaid. Is that looking out for the little guy when 21 percent of Texans didn’t have health insurance?PERRY: If how you keep score is how many people you force to buy insurance, then I would say that that’s how you keep score.
After the former governor emphasized the increase in the number of licensed physicians in Texas during his tenure, Wallace asked the right question: “[D]on’t you, as the governor for 14 years, don’t you feel some responsibility when 21 percent of the people in your state didn’t have health insurance?”
Perry replied, “That’s not how we keep score.”
Let’s first address Perry’s principal talking point: the number of licensed physicians in Texas soared during his time in office. By all appearances, that’s true, though I have no idea why Perry considers this so important. Plenty of other states saw a similar increase as populations grew, and having more doctors isn’t helpful if local residents don’t have the coverage necessary to make an appointment.
What’s more, over 10,000 of the doctors Perry is bragging about “sought licenses in Texas but took jobs elsewhere.”
But arguably more important is the fact that Perry believes Texans “keep score” in some alternative way. The former governor doesn’t dispute the underlying point – the Lone Star State leaves a greater percentage of its population with no health security than any other state – but Perry’s defense is that the metric itself is irrelevant.
Why? Because Rick Perry says so.
One wonders if, sometime early next year, Perry’s presidential campaign will fall short and some observer might note that he didn’t win any states or delegates. If he replies, “That’s not how we keep score,” the response will make about as much sense then as it does now.