Speaking just before a Monday morning press conference with Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a tea party favorite, told a Texas radio host that accepting nearly $90 billion in federal funds to expand Medicaid will ultimately force the state to release violent criminals back onto the streets for no good reason.
"[It] will become a bigger and bigger part of the state budget and so if Texas did as some other states are doing and signed on to the expansion of Medicaid, what we would see is Medicaid growing even faster than it is now as a percentage of the state budget and crowding out every other priority," Cruz said Monday, appearing on San Antonio's 550 KTSA, according to Think Progress. Audio of the interview was not immediately available online.
"So if you think it’s important for the state to continue spending on public education, you should be glad that the state is not signing on to Medicaid expansion," he continued. "If you want state funds to provide for our prisons and law enforcement to incarcerate violent criminals and keep them off the streets you should be glad we’re not signing up for this Medicaid expansion, because every state that does so is going to be regretting it mightily because the pressure is going to crowd out just about every other priority in the budget."
Cruz's rhetorical attack on the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion is predicated on Perry's argument that accepting money to expand Medicaid will harm the state in the long run. Perry, who boasted in 2001 about how much money Texas was spending on Medicaid, announced last June that he was "proudly" acting to deny health care to approximately 1.2 million low-income Texans who would be covered under the federal government's plan, which pays 100 percent of the costs through 2016 and 90 percent through 2020.
The "pressure" he's referring to is the 10 percent of the Medicaid expansion Texas would be responsible for starting in 2017, estimated by Texas-based economic analysis firm The Perryman Group (PDF) to be about $1.3 billion. The federal government, on the other hand, is expected to chip in an additional $24 billion that same year. Over the course of a decade, Texas would be looking at spending about $15.6 billion to match the federal government's contributions of nearly $90 billion.
The Perryman Group's analysis goes on to explain that for every dollar Texas spends on the Medicaid expansion, $1.29 will return in dynamic state revenues over the next decade from reduced morbidity, better overall public health and increased productivity -- meaning the state actually stands to make money by helping its low-income citizens get vital health care, which can only sound like relief for lawmakers grappling with a 2013 budget of $173.5 billion that carries more than $5 billion in deficits.
Additionally, it's not clear why Cruz believes a budget crunch would result in violent offenders being released, given that data from the Texas Department of Public Safety (PDF) shows just 10 percent of the 1,063,803 arrests made in Texas during 2011 were for violent crimes. The largest arrest categories tracked by the TXDPS are drug offenses, mostly marijuana possession and alcohol-related charges, followed by property crimes like vandalism, fraud and theft.
"The Supreme Court made clear that the Constitution does not allow the federal government to force states to expand Medicaid, and doing so would impose crippling pressures on the Texas budget for decades to come -- pressures that would crowd out other vital state priorities like public education, infrastructure, and law enforcement," Cruz reiterated in a prepared statement issued Monday. "In the long term, we need fundamental reform of Medicaid, so that it can truly help the most vulnerable among us. Texas knows best how to care for Texans."
Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr, creative commons licensed.