Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks about the costs of illegal immigration in his state during a press conference at the Republican governors conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Nov. 19, 2014.
Photo by J Pat Carter/AP

Perry boasts about Texas’ uninsured rate

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), freed from the burdens of a day job, has hit the campaign trail with great vigor recently, touting his still-unannounced presidential bid. And this week, this meant a swing through the first primary state: New Hampshire.
Perry proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which he called “another example of one-size-fits-all coming out of Washington, D.C.” And he noted that Texas chose not to participate in Medicaid expansion.
“Texas has been criticized for having a large number of uninsured,” he said, “but that’s what Texans wanted. They did not want a large government program forcing everyone to purchase insurance.” But he said Texans passed in 2003 a constitutional amendment that brought “the most sweeping tort reform in the nation. And the result of that is that there are now 35,000 more licensed physicians in Texas.”
“And the access to health care exploded,” he said.
Hmm. Where to begin.
First, the Affordable Care Act isn’t really a “one-size-fits-all” model. States can set up their own exchange marketplaces, working with their own insurers, which can offer consumers a variety of coverage options.
Second, it’s true that the number of physicians in Texas grew after “tort reform,” but the connection between the two is sketchy. Other states saw an increase in licensed doctors, too, regardless of liability laws. What’s more, the number of Texas’ doctors grew, but so did its population.
None of this means expanded “access to health care” for those who have no insurance.
And finally, the notion that Texans “want” the worst uninsured rate in the nation seems a little hard to believe. 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?
“That’s what Texans wanted”? Is Perry sure? Because I have a hunch a whole lot of Texans would be pleased if their families and their neighbors could afford to see a doctor. Indeed, the point here is that the state’s Republican-run government didn’t give those Texans a choice.*
In a press statement, Texas Democratic Party Spokesperson Javier Gamboa said, “Rick Perry should be ashamed of himself for saying that the people of Texas did not want increased coverage and expanded access to healthcare. More than one million hardworking Texans are living without affordable care because of his failure to partner with the legislature to find a Texas solution to closing the coverage gap. This lame excuse won’t work for him in Texas, New Hampshire or the rest of the nation as he runs for president.”
* edited slightly for clarity