Texas Gov. Rick Perry is turning the state's health care system into the equivalent of a deadly carnival dunking booth. Taxpayers will be forced to buy mandatory tickets to guarantee that some of their neighbors drown.
How did he do it? It's simple, really. By refusing to participate in federal Medicaid expansion, Perry (if the next legislative session approves his plan) will force local taxpayers to pay for otherwise uncompensated care provided the unlucky at public and private hospitals. Hospital district taxes will rise. So will health insurance premiums for those lucky enough to have insurance.
Perry is asking Texans to pay for the guaranteed suffering and unnecessary deaths of their neighbors. The same is no doubt true in the other states led by GOP governors hell-bent on opposing President Obama. Jonathon Swift couldn't imagine such a plot line.
A few years back, Texas' Republican state Comptroller, Susan Combs, estimated the annual costs of such care to run in excess of $10 billion. That means Perry wants Texans to pay ten billion simoleons for the pleasure of watching their neighbors disappear in his deadly dunking booth.
It's one thing for a people to sit passively while others suffer, rationalizing it as the fault of the irresponsible. It's quite another thing to pay one's own money to make sure the unnecessary suffering happens.
Did I mention that Texas has the highest number of uninsured in the country? Or that it provides the worst health care in the country according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality? Since most developed countries provide better health care than the U.S., and since Texas is the worst in the U.S., it's not much of a stretch to say Texas provides its citizens the worst health care in the world.
Now we can add that Perry and his cronies actually want Texans to pay to maintain that dubious distinction. It's true that because Texas has in the past been so stingy with Medicaid that joining the rest of civilization might cost it $6 billion in catch-up money. Still, according to Texas' Center for Public Policy Priorities:
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has projected that even with a large enrollment increase in Medicaid for poor adults, our Medicaid costs would only increase by $5.8 billion from 2014-2019, and the state would receive $76.3 billion in federal matching funds -- a net gain of $70 billion.
That's some carnival. Under the Perry plan, Texans will pay $70 billion over the next few years to make sure their neighbors continue to receive poor care or no care.
Participation in Medicaid expansion would help Texas hospitals. The Texas economy would be helped with the return of Texas' federal tax dollars. People, obviously, would be helped. Oh, and Texans could keep their billions they will otherwise spend on Perry's dunking booth tickets.
But all that is so much West Texas sand in the heads of Perry and his gang. What matters is that he be seen standing up to the alien in the White House. Playing to his party's crazies, Perry is seeking political advantage from the suffering of others -- and asking the rest of us to pay for it.
But this will only play to Perry's political advantage if voters remain unaware of what it means. When they learn that Perry wants them to finance the unnecessary suffering of others, the Texas governor might find himself, finally, tossed out of the pan and back to the Texas Panhandle where -- well, as it turns out his old neighbors there don't like him much either.
Medicaid expansion would cover as many as two million currently uninsured Texans. The federal government would pick up the entire cost of that coverage for the first three years, and 90 percent of the cost after that. Every state can get that deal.
Still, GOP governors like Florida's Rick Scott and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal are striking their anti-Obama poses, claiming that by not participating they are saving their states from financial ruin. Even their public claims are false, as Politifact said of Gov. Scott's preposterous comments.
And, typically, the costs of maintaining dysfunctional health care systems are not included in the analyses. When they are, the macabre insanity of America's far right is clearly evident.
Follow Glenn W. Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@glennwsmith