Perry seeks federal waiver on Medicaid reform

Perry seeks federal waiver on Medicaid reform
Texas Tribune

POSTED: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 11:00am

UPDATED: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 11:14am

Gov. Rick Perry has added more fuel to his fight with the federal government over Obamacare.

As the Tribune's Becca Aaronson reports, Perry on Monday directed Texas' Health and Human Services Commission to seek a federal waiver to reform Medicaid as the state sees fit. Perry maintained, however, that the state would not expand the program under federal health care reform.

"Seemingly, the president and his administration are content to simply throw money at a problem and hope that any problems will resolve themselves," Perry wrote in a letter to the head of the agency. "My response, and the response of the Texas Legislature, has been crystal clear: Texas will not expand Medicaid under Obamacare."

Perry called on the agency to request a block grant, or lump sum, that would give the state more flexibility in operating Medicaid. For Texas, that includes the ability to make changes to the program without seeking federal approval and to continue asset testing. The waiver, he wrote, would let Texas "transform our program into one that encourages personal responsibility, reduces dependence on the government, reins in program cost growth and efficiently improves coordination of care."

Texas' push for more flexibility with Medicaid isn't new. But Perry's call for a block grant comes as the number of Republican governors who have reversed course on Medicaid expansion continues to climb. On Monday, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania became the 10th GOP governor to agree to the expansion — though whether the Obama administration will agree to Corbett's terms remains unclear.

It also remains unclear how the administration will respond to Texas' request. Though such waivers were recently considered long shots, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said last month during a visit to the state that the federal government is open to a "uniquely Texan" approach to expanding Medicaid.

"But as far as I know," she added, "those conversations, at least with the state officials, are not taking place right now."

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