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March and rally urges lawmakers to expand Medicaid

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The debate over expanding the state Medicaid program is heating up again. A march and rally took place Tuesday at the capitol to pressure lawmakers into going against the GOP leadership that opposes the idea. While the rally took place there was word a compromise may soon be hammered out.

They traveled from across the state to march through downtown Austin Tuesday morning. Some walked, others used wheel chairs but each shared a common message.

"We need Texas to invest in us," shouted a march organizer from a megaphone.

They are worried lawmakers will continue to reduce funding for Medicaid instead of improving it.

"I feel like they should be finding another solution instead of saying this and this, find another solution to work it out," said Shamica Egins who came with a group from Beaumont.

At the south steps of the capitol the group called on lawmakers to accept a federal offer to expand Medicaid benefits.

"We spend 15 million we get 100 million we cover over a million Texans. ... that my friends is a really good deal," said DeAnn Friedhold, a health care advocate and one of the featured speakers at the rally.

Governor Rick Perry was heckled for refusing to accept that math. He believes federal funding will dry up and the state will eventually be stuck with the entire budget busting bill. The rally comes a day after the Texas House GOP Caucus voted to stand with Governor Rick Perry in opposition to expansion. But there could be some wiggle room for a little bit of compromise.

The Governor hasn't budge from his position but when we spoke at the beginning of the session he seemed to provide an opening.

"We're not all going to agree, I'm pretty sure there are going to be folks on both my side of the isle and the other side of the isle, that don't agree with everything I got to do, or that I want to do, or that I'm going to do, but we're going to do it in a thoughtful and civil way," said Governor Perry during an interview in January with FOX 7

In a letter to the governor sent by State Senator Bob Duell in late February. The Republican from Northeast Texas stated he would draft a plan to access the federal money through a block grant. He filed legislation to do that, along with other stipulations, on Monday. A similar plan from the House is expected before the end of the week.

The message being sent from inside the capitol was clearly heard by some of those outside at the rally.

"If certain members want to renegotiate with the Federal Government on little intricacies about how we expand Medicaid lets join in that conversation with them let's ask them how can we help you get to our side of the equation," said Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez ,who was among those speaking at the rally.

Cutting a deal is like walking through a political mine filed. Last week the state of Arkansas was given a federal waiver that allows Medicaid expansion though subsidizing private health insurance. While the situation there may have been resolved, other attempts appear to be falling apart. In Florida, state lawmakers on Monday refused to sign off on a plan by their Governor to accept the federal money.

By Friday there may be a better indication if Texas compromise is possible. Friday is the last day new bills can be filed for the Regular Session.

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