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Texas Legislature passes measure to prevent Medicaid expansion

Medicaid
Medicaid

By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The Republican-majority Texas House and Senate on Sunday sent Governor Rick Perry a proposal to prevent the state from expanding its Medicaid program as outlined by President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law.

Perry, a Republican, notified the Obama administration last summer his state would not expand Medicaid, which provides healthcare for low-income people. He repeated his opposition in an April news conference at which he called expansion "foolish."

The proposal, an amendment to a Medicaid-related bill, says state health officials "may only provide medical assistance to a person who would have been otherwise eligible for medical assistance or for whom federal matching funds were available under the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in effect on December 31, 2013."

The House had tacked on the amendment after the Senate had passed a version of the bill without the amendment. Members of both chambers met to work out differences in the legislation.

That House-Senate conference committee chose to keep the amendment, although its members tweaked the language to prevent unintended consequences, said the bill's author, Republican Senator Jane Nelson.

"This prevents the expansion of Medicaid," she said in a statement.

Republican Representative Jeff Leach, the author of the amendment, has said Medicaid expansion is too big of a decision to be made without lawmakers' input.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obama's healthcare overhaul but allowed states to opt out of a provision expanding the Medicaid program.

Since then, 26 governors have indicated support for Medicaid expansion, according to the Advisory Board Company, a consulting firm that is tracking the issue.

Democrats have called on Perry to drop his opposition to expanding Medicaid in the state, which has the nation's highest percentage of uninsured people. About 24 percent of Texans are uninsured.

The biennial legislative session is set to end on Monday.

(Reporting By Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Bill Trott)

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