A majority of Texans support expanding Medicaid in the state and protecting coverage of pre-existing conditions, according to an Episcopal Health Foundation poll.
The annual opinion survey found Texans’ top priority for the state legislature is tied between lowering the cost of prescription drugs and lowering the amount individuals pay for health care. Other priorities included increasing funding for mental health programs and reducing maternal mortality.
A sweeping majority of respondents, 88 percent, said insurance companies should be required to cover pre-existing conditions. This was a new question added because of a Texas judge’s 2018 decision to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, threatening current federal protections.
“If their desire to see the ACA go away means that they’re interested in taking on the problem themselves, that’s fantastic and I’d like to see it happen,” said Episcopal Health Foundation president and chief executive Elena Marks.
Overall, Texans prefer the state government to have its hands in healthcare more than the federal government. Ninety-one percent of respondents said the state should take some role in making the healthcare system work well compared to 82 percent who said the same of the federal government. When asked if the government should take a “major” role in the healthcare system, respondents again preferred state control (67 percent) to federal (57 percent).
However, Texans don’t want state lawmakers to leave federal money on the table. Sixty-four percent of Texans support Medicaid expansion, the poll found. Texas lawmakers have so far elected not to expand the federal program in the state, though some have filed bills this year to vote on the topic.
The results of this year’s survey echo those of a 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation/Episcopal Health Foundation poll which found growing support for Medicaid expansion along with mental health and maternal mortality as priorities for Texans.
“It seems that the public in Texas wants the legislature to do something,” said Dr. Tim Garson, who heads the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute, in reaction to the 2018 survey. “The last time that anyone thought about it, it was a democratic administration in the White House, and this is a very different administration,” he said, noting changes in national politics may have made Medicaid expansion more palatable for Texas voters.