Betting against Perry
Thu July 19, 2012 9:38 am

I came across this article yesterday in the daily Kaiser Health News:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he rejects the “Obamacare power grab” and will block measures expanding health insurance to millions in his state. The country’s second-biggest health insurer is betting he won’t succeed.

The same day last week that Perry said expanding Medicaid would be like “adding a thousand people to the Titanic,” WellPoint Inc. disclosed an agreement to buy Texas’s biggest Medicaid managed care company for $4.9 billion. The purchase of Amerigroup, which operates in 12 other states besides Texas, is WellPoint’s attempt to cash in on the health act’s addition of 17 million Americans to Medicaid, the state and federal program for the poor.

The Supreme Court decision allowing states to block Medicaid growth without a penalty, however, threatens the profits of companies hoping to manage care for the new beneficiaries. Perry is one of more than half a dozen Republican governors resisting the federal Medicaid windfall set to begin in 2014.

But if there’s one thing more powerful than Republican governors’ dislike of the Affordable Care Act, many believe, it may turn out to be the business interests in their own states.

“Once the headlines die down, every hospital in Texas is going to look at Perry and say, ‘Please tell me why we’re not taking money from the federal government to offset my uncompensated care,’” said Thomas Carroll, who follows health insurance stocks for investment firm Stifel Nicolaus. “That is a question that Rick Perry absolutely cannot answer.”

* * * *

I hate to break the news to WellPoint Inc., but they may have spent $4.9B for nothing. Rick Perry is a politician who loves to say no, especially when it comes to something the Obama administration wants to do. Perry has no interest in improving state services, no interest in fixing the problems of the uninsured, no interest in supporting a business entity that lives off funding for Medicaid. This is a guy who turned down federal unemployment funds during a terrible recession. He is an ever-ambitious, purely ideological politician who is  looking for the next step up the ladder after leaving the presidential race. If, as the author of this piece suggests, “every hospital in Texas is going to look at Perry and say, ‘Please tell me why we’re not taking money from the federal government for uncompensated care,’” here’s what Perry is going to say: “Because I said so.”

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