Texas healthcare workers closely watching AHCA vote

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Congress delayed a vote on the American Health Care Act in Washington, D.C. Thursday, healthcare groups in Texas are closely watching what happens next.

The Texas Alliance for Health Care, a group of healthcare providers and workers, plans to visit state lawmakers Friday. They said they are focused on Medicaid because it serves the state’s poorest patients. Texas has more than four million Medicaid recipients, which include low-income children and disabled and pregnant women.   

Under the American Health Care Act, healthcare workers say they fear the two options to pay for Medicaid set forth by the federal government could drastically cut millions from Medicaid.

The two ways are:

  • Block grants: They allow the federal government to give states a set amount of money and turns control over the Medicaid system to states.
  • A per-capita cap: The federal government would give state’s money based on how many patients are enrolled in Medicaid; and, the US government would set a cap on how much state’s can spend.

There are pros and cons for each of the ways which would affect low-income children and disabled and pregnant women.

“We want for this to proceed cautious,” said Kay Ghahremani, CEO of Texas Association of Community Health Plans. Her group is one in the Texas Alliance for Health Care, which is headed to the State Capitol to educate and send a message to lawmakers.

Healthcare workers say both choices would hit Texas hard because the state already pays lower than the national average for Medicaid patients and it has the most uninsured people than any other state.

Plus, Texans may not have access to new life-changing drugs expected to hit the market because they will cost much more than the state will be able to pay under the American Healthcare Act.

Other groups say the bright side is that states will have more control over how to run Medicaid and they can better decide changes that could save money or make cash for Medicaid.

The Texas Alliance for Healthcare says its main message for state lawmakers is to know the changes the American Healthcare Act might bring to the state.

“We want to make sure lawmakers both at the federal and state level are fully aware of the implications before anything this drastic changes the Medicaid program fundamentally,” said Ghahremani.

She says nearly 75 percent of Texas’s Medicaid patients are children. And, they may be hit the hardest.

“We want to make sure that low income children get the help they need,” she said. “So they can go to school and learn and grow up to be productive, they often need healthcare to do that “

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