Texas Gov. Rick Perry may say there are pressing reasons for his decision not to expand his state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, but over the weekend a group of faith leaders in the state gathered to voice their opposition to the governor's agenda.
Nearly 300 people crowded into the Christ's Foundry United Methodist Church in Dallas on Sunday to launch a petition drive against Perry’s decision to deny Texans the Medicaid expansion included in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law. The event was organized by Dallas Area Interfaith, according to the Dallas Morning News. The group is a multi-ethnic civic organization that advocates for various public safety and health care issues.
“We’re organizing teams to teach people about Medicaid, get them to sign petitions and do neighborhood walks,” Mike Rosen, a member of Dallas Area Interfaith, told the newspaper, adding that the expansion makes sense for “moral, ethical and financial reasons.”
The Medicaid expansion offered by the health care law would enroll at least 1.5 million low-income, uninsured Texans in the government health insurance program Medicaid. Although Texas currently has the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the country -- almost a quarter of the population has no health insurance -- in July Perry said the state would opt out of the expansion to avoid paying the state’s portion of the additional cost.
The expansion could cost the state $5.8 billion between 2014 and 2019. However, the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin reported that Texas would receive an additional $76.3 billion in federal matching funds if it enrolled -- a net gain of $70 billion.
Perry is one of a handful of Republican governors who have insisted they would not expand Medicaid or implement a state health exchange after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the health care law.
Following the decision, Perry said in a July statement that he would not “be party to socializing health care and bankrupting my state in direct contradiction to our Constitution and our founding principles of limited government.”
Some say Perry’s staunch opposition to a health care expansion is a complete contradiction to his professed Christian faith.
“Churches care about the health of the community, whether it’s related to people not being able to afford insurance coverage or not getting access to the care they need,” Mary Lou Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Dallas Area Interfaith, told the Dallas Morning News.
A spokesperson for Perry did not immediately return a request for comment.
This isn’t the first time faith organizations have spoken out against the GOP’s opposition to the health care law. Earlier this year, more than 100 national, state and local faith leaders also asked Republican governors to support the Medicaid expansion, which they called a “pro-life” program.
"Depriving struggling families of health care is wholly incompatible with the teachings of our faiths and the ideals of our nation. Politicians who put political ideology before the well-being of their constituents neglect their moral duty as leaders,” a joint statement issued by religious leaders read.