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Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher Fights to Incentivize Medicaid Expansion in COVID-19 Relief Bill

Fletcher: “No one should have to worry about affording the care they need—especially now.”

Today, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce marked up legislative recommendations for budget reconciliation, including Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher’s (TX-07) bill to incentivize Medicaid expansion for holdout states—including Texas—to deliver on key portions of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and provide much-needed COVID-19 relief for communities across the country.

During today’s markup, Fletcher highlighted the critical need for Medicaid expansion for Texas and holdout states across the country.  Texas is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid.  Fletcher’s bill, H.R. 871, the Expand Medicaid Now Act, provides a new incentive for states to expand Medicaid by increasing federal funding to any new expansion state by five percentage points.  Under her legislation, if Texas were to expand Medicaid, the federal share of Medicaid would increase from 61.81 percent to 66.81 percent for two years.

Video of Fletcher’s testimony is here.  Remarks as delivered are available below:

As we all know and have been discussing, we are in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 470,000 Americans in less than a year. 

We know that access to health care at this moment in particular is vital.  Yet for too many Americans, health care is still inaccessible.  Too many people cannot afford the care that they need.

No one should have to worry about affording the health care that they need—especially right now.

For years, we have grappled with the question of how we can ensure Americans have access to affordable health care. 

And over the past year, the pandemic has underscored the essential role that health care plays in our lives, the importance of the health of our neighbors in our communities, and has highlighted the inequities of our health care system.

I agree with my colleague from Texas, Mr. Veasey, that one vital part of the solution is to get states to expand Medicaid—states like ours. 

And I am glad to see the legislation that I have introduced to increase the FMAP by 5 percent is included in this bill, and I support Mr. Veasey’s efforts to have a more permanent expansion as well and look forward to this committee continuing to address how we can expand Medicaid.

Because expanding Medicaid would provide access to care for millions of people across the country. 

And in our home state of Texas, it is vitally important.

Quite simply, Texas is in a health care crisis. 

Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country at 18.4 percent.  This is in stark contrast with other states, like Massachusetts that has only 3 percent.  And sadly, according to the UnitedHealth Foundation’s annual rankings, Texas ranks 50th in the country for access to care and it ranks highest for people delaying treatment because of cost.

And all this is happening in the shadow of incredible, high quality health care and in the shadow of some of the most innovative medical research at leading health care institutions, not just in our country, but in the world.  I represent the physicians and researchers and others who work in them, including the largest medical complex in the world. 

At the same time, we see that for far too many people don’t have access to that care.

Currently, there are 4.1 million Texans enrolled in Medicaid.  And an estimated 1.27 million Texans would be eligible for coverage under expansion, including an estimated 223,000 residents of Harris County.  One study found that Texas could have seen a 24 percent drop in uninsurance if it had expanded its Medicaid program in 2020.

Medicaid expansion is critical during this pandemic where so many have experienced devastating job losses.  An estimated 650,000 Texans lost their health insurance because they lost their jobs during this pandemic.

States that reject Medicaid expansion are rejecting a huge amount of money on the table.  A study by Texas A&M researchers last year found that expanding Medicaid could bring as much as $5.4 billion federal dollars to our state.

There are so many reasons to expand Medicaid.  Expanding in Texas would help protect more than one million people in our state and support our hospitals.

It popular in Texas too, with one survey last year finding that 67 percent of Texans surveyed supported Medicaid expansion.

At this point, these provisions are vital to helping incentivize states like Texas and the others that have not expanded Medicaid to do so.

At this moment in our history, it is critical.

Ensuring every family has access to quality health care is critical for helping families through this life-threatening pandemic and moving our country forward.

Our economy can’t recover until our people recover.

And in states like mine, expanding Medicaid is an important part of that effort.

More information on today’s markup can be found here.