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Protestors rally to save Medicaid

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State lawmakers have a big debt to pay up when they come back to Austin in January. They owe the state Medicaid program almost $5 billion and have until March to pay up.

A coalition of people who depend on Medicaid held a rally Monday morning near the capitol urging lawmakers to fully fund the program. Medicaid costs are expected to increase, and new ways to provide health care services are expected to be debated in the upcoming session.

Some reform ideas being discussed now include creating a sliding scale co-pay program.

"It will do a realistic assessment of an individual's income and assets and see what they can afford to pay. I believe Texans want to help to take care of those in need but they want it do it in a way responsible and requires of the individual that pay what they can," said Arlene Wohlgemuth with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Currently, 3.6 million people are enrolled in the Texas Medicaid program. There is concern that reform will only be an excuse for republicans to slash safety net programs.

"We think there are lots of improvements and true reforms that can be made to Medicaid and again they involve making real medical homes integrated medical care better making sure we are not providing things that don't work or ineffective or cost too much but they shouldn't involve just shifting the cost to the lowest income most vulnerable Texans or just shifting cost to the state of Texas," said Anne Dunkelberg with the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Health and Human Services spending represents a little more than 30 percent of the state budget. Three quarters of that amount goes to Medicaid.


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