Texas could seek Medicaid expansion during Harvey recovery

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Hurricane Harvey's impact on Texas may spur the state to pursue Medicaid expansion as a way to receive public funding in the storm's aftermath, some observers say.

Sarah Rosenbaum, a health policy professor at the George Washington University, told Bloomberg BNA on Tuesday that Texas' current health insurance climate may leave it worse off in the wake of Harvey than neighbor Louisiana, which did expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Expanding the program during hurricane recovery efforts would be “the fastest way for the state to secure a large infusion of public funding without having to wait for Congress to act,” Rosenbaum said.

“The healthcare delivery system down there is already buckling, and this is without thinking about all the uninsured people who are going to need healthcare for a long time,” Rosenbaum told Bloomberg.

Expansion funding could also benefit hospitals that serve low-income patients as Harvey has put an “enormous financial hit” on the stressed-out providers, Shawn Gremminger, director of legislative affairs for America's Essential Hospitals, told Bloomberg.

Department of Health and Human Services' Secretary Tom Price, M.D., this week declared Harvey a public health emergency in Louisiana, allowing for waived documentation requirements such as the three-day stay rule for healthcare providers there. Price declared an emergency for Texas over the weekend, ushering in similar waivers.

“This will prevent gaps in coverage for beneficiaries that need to be evacuated from affected hospitals to skilled nursing facilities,” Tony Salters, a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokesman, told Bloomberg.