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Lawmakers mull alternatives to Medicaid expansion

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Lawmakers are trying to find common ground in order to provide health care to those who cannot afford it. The upcoming legislative session a few months away and to avoid a debate that will solve nothing members of a state senate health care committee today started searching for some type of solution.

Liberal and conservative lawmakers have been deadlocked here at the state Capitol for the past few years on how to provide health care to the needy in Texas.

The hearing Thursday is the latest attempt to develop a plan without breaking the bank.

The senate health and human services committee called in state health and insurance officials to help break-down the challenge they are facing for the coming legislative session.

They were told that nearly 724,000 people in Texas signed up for a medical insurance policy, earlier this year, through the Affordable Health Care Act, which is also known as Obama Care.

It's not known how many of those people had been uninsured or if they had dumped old policies for a plan. The information provides the committee with a baseline as the debate continues over how to improve Medicaid services.

State leaders refused to expand it to allow single adults with moderate incomes and the federal government is refusing to let the state develop its own program through a block grant.

With both of those ideas going nowhere, committee members are looking at what's called market based alternatives which involve special waivers and pushing more cost cutting initiatives.

"We've got to look at different ways of doing things if not, if we keep on this path, my job as finance chairman is going to be real easy because all I'll say is here is the Medicaid check we dont have anything else," said State Senator Jane Nelson (R) Flower Mound.

“Some of the things the other states are doing that are different are using the private insurance market, using managed care, the new adults who could get Medicaid or get the alternative coverage type can have co-payments can have small premiums they can have programs to provide rewards and incentives for health behaviors to make sure they get their checkups and their shots, those sorts of things, so there is a lot of innovation going on out there in other conservative Republican states," said Anne Dunkelberg of the Center For Public Policy Priorities.

It's estimated that there are $6 million uninsured people in Texas. But of that number, about a million are undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for government health coverage.

It is estimated that expanding Medicaid would provide health care to about a million people in Texas but after that the math gets fuzzy.

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