In 2001 speech, Perry praised Medicaid, urged study on providing health insurance to Mexicans

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, September 1, 2011 11:56 EDT
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Someone warn the tea party: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the Republican Party’s frontrunner for the 2012 presidential nomination, didn’t always believe publicly-run health care programs run contrary to America’s founding document.

In a mostly forgotten 2001 speech, the Texas governor had kind words for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and even promised to study a proposal for “bi-national health insurance” that would cover Mexicans and Americans alike.

That’s a very different tune than what Perry’s campaign has been playing since he announced plans to seek the nation’s presidency. In an interview last month, Perry called the nation’s most beloved social programs — Medicare and Social Security — unconstitutional.

But speaking at a Texas-Mexico border summit on August 22, 2001, Perry bragged about an additional $4 billion in funding the state had set aside for Medicaid, a federal, public health care program intended to help poor people obtain vital medical services. Medicaid only differs from Medicare in that Medicare is reserved for senior citizens.

He also gloated over the additional $900 million they had provided CHIP, a Texas program that provides medical care for the children of poor families. Perry even went on to urge legislators to pass a bill that would provide “telemedicine” services to Mexican citizens south of the U.S. border, and lauded a separate piece of legislation that aimed at studying “bi-national health insurance.”

While nothing would ever arise from the idea for a U.S.-Mexico partnership on health care, Perry’s urging led the Texas legislature to pass a bill authorizing funds to study the viability of such a program.

Perry also praised the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), an economic program that simplified trade between the U.S. and Mexico. Most Republicans were adamantly opposed to NAFTA, which passed in 1994 during the Clinton administration.

“That is why it is wrong, and inherently detrimental to our relationship with Mexico for the U.S. Congress to pursue a protectionist policy that forbids Mexican trucks from U.S. roadways,” he said. “It is bad public policy, and it violates the terms of the NAFTA agreement we agreed to. Mexican trucks that meet our safety standards should be given the same access to U.S. roads as our Canadian neighbors to the north.”

He even went on to praise the Texas DREAM Act, which carries elements of the national immigration reform package supported today by President Barack Obama and most Democrats.

“We must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, ‘we don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there,”’ he said. “And that vision must include the children of undocumented workers. That’s why Texas took the national lead in allowing such deserving young minds to attend a Texas college at a resident rate.”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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