DALLAS – Texas Governor Rick Perry said his state will not expand Medicaid nor will it establish an online marketplace for patients to shop for insurance.
Perry's announcement Monday was a clear shot at two key elements of the federal health care overhaul or "Obamacare."
In a letter sent to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Perry said both elements "represent brazen intrusions into the sovereignty of our state.
Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor and disabled, covers one in four Latinos in the United States, including nearly 50% of the country's Latino children.
"I will not be party to socializing health care and bankrupting my state in direct contradiction to our Constitution and our founding principles of limited government," Perry said in a statement.
The Supreme Court upheld most of the federal health care law last month, although it said the federal government can't withhold states' entire Medicaid allotment if they don't expand Medicaid. If states choose not to set up a health care exchange, an online service for people to comparison shop for insurance, the federal government will establish one for them.
About 6.2 million Texans — a quarter of the state's population — are uninsured.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid would expand to cover Americans up to 133 percent of the poverty level adding millions of people "into the already unsustainable Medicaid program, at a potential cost of billions to Texas taxpayers," said Perry, a Republican. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has estimated the Medicaid expansion would cost the state $27 billion in the first 10 years, a number many Democrats dispute.
Under the 133 percent increase, a family of four making $30,657 or under would qualify.
The state has estimated about 2 million people would be added to the Texas Medicaid rolls in the first two years if it went ahead with the expansion.
The Medicaid program especially impacts the Latino community in Texas and around the United States.
From 2007 to 2009, 22% of Texas Latinos are covered by Medicaid, according to a Kaiser Family commission.
In 2009, 27% of Hispanic Americans - 13 million people, including 9 million children- were covered by Medicaid, according to the Kaiser report. In contrast 11% of non-Hispanic white Americans were covered by Medicaid. Latinos account for one in four Medicaid enrollees in the United States.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, another Republican, said he hoped voters would address the issue by electing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has promised to repeal the health care law. He would not say what he thought the state would do if President Barack Obama is re-elected.
"There are a lot of stakeholders we'd need to hear from before we could make a decision on that," Straus said.
Texas Medical Association survey given to The Associated Press over the weekend found that the number of Texas doctors willing to accept government-funded health insurance plans for the poor and the elderly has dropped dramatically amid complaints about low pay and red tape.
Only 31 percent of Texas doctors said they were accepting new patients who rely on Medicaid. In 2010, the last time the survey was done, 42 percent of doctors were accepting new Medicaid patients. In 2000, that number was 67 percent.
Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña called Perry's announcement "both cruel and negligent."
"Rick Perry's Texas solution is to let Texans stay ill and uninsured," Acuña said. "That is not a health care plan. Once again Perry is putting partisan political pandering in front of the interests of Texas."
A message left seeking comment from Sebelius' office was not immediately returned Monday.