PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

December 4, 2012

Sen. Williams: ‘Medicaid not sustainable in current form’

PORT ARTHUR — The financial future of Texas depends largely on how Medicaid reform is shaped in the upcoming legislative session, according to Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.

Entering his 16th year as an elected state official, and first as chair of the senate finance committee, one of Williams’ biggest goals is to put the state’s largest non-education program, Medicaid, on a better track to help alleviate other problems Texas will face in the near future.

The state’s budget has grown by 8 percent during the last decade, Williams said, while funding for Medicaid has grown by 14 percent.

“Resources from other areas are being put in to feed that Medicaid monster,” he said.

Williams said he supports Medicaid but said it’s “not sustainable in its current form.”

“Sitting at the chair of the senate finance committee, and setting aside politics, from the state perspective, there’s very little health care reform and a huge Medicaid expansion,” he said.

The biggest change in health care on the state and federal level has been the methodic implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

In line with Gov. Rick Perry’s stance, Williams said he does not want Texas to accept the funds provided by the ACA because the regulations accompanying them are too strict.

“My point is not that we shouldn’t take care of that population, but that we should do it at a price our tax payers can afford,” he said. “This simply hasn’t given us the flexibility we need to do that.”

The only way he would approve of Texas taking ACA funds, Williams said, is if they were offered as a block grant. This would allow the state to spend the money as it sees fit.

“If the federal government would block grant the money to Texas, we could take care of these people on Medicaid for a lot less money than we’re spending now, and we could take better care of them,” he said.

There are two main reasons Williams would not accept ACA funds as they are currently outlined: State exchanges and Medicaid rollout.

Any federal funds refused by one state are rolled over, or exchanged, to another state that approves of the new guidelines. After a state receives these funds, its health care programs, like Medicaid, are essentially condensed into a federally-guided system.

Williams said this is the opposite of what needs to happen in order to secure the future of health care.

“It’s just more of the same centralized bureaucracy that’s gotten us into the mess we’re in now,” he said. “If the state really got to run it, that would be fine. But that’s not the set up they have now.”

Texas has made strides in improving its health care system, Williams said, in part by establishing contracts with competing providers and reforming the regulations.

“You’re paying them for outcomes, not services provided,” he said. “If you have two managed care providers that are competing for the government’s business in this area you tend to get much better service.”

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