SAN ANTONIO – Top county leaders are considering ways to expand Medicare and Medicaid with the same federal money Governor Rick Perry rejected.
Expanding those programs is a key part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but Texas is one of 13 states saying no to that part of the plan.
If Texas says no to the money, it will be divided up and sent to states who say yes.
That’s why Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff says he’s considering ways to keep that money local.
One in four Texans is living without health insurance and a majority of Texas doctors say they’re not accepting new Medicaid or Medicare patients.
But those families have to go somewhere, and they often go to University Hospital – otherwise known as the Bexar County Hospital District, paid for with your tax dollars.
"We treat you and that's an expense the public is bearing,” Judge Wolff says.
He says expanding Medicare and Medicaid could save University Hospital $52 million a year.
"Economically it makes good sense, whether you were for Obamacare or whether you were against it,” Judge Wolff says.
The federal government has promised states it will cover 100% of the cost of treating uninsured patients for three years. After that, it will cover 90% with each state paying the rest of the bill.
That 10% match is why many Governors have rejected the federal money, and the Supreme Court ruled states don’t have to participate.
But Judge Wolff says the window might be left open for counties.
"Well, we haven't opened that window yet,” he says “The state has to agree to it."
State lawmakers have until the end of the year to make that call.
Judge Wolff says if the plan works the way he thinks it will, health care could be cheaper for everyone in Bexar County.
"We believe we may be able to cut the tax rate if we get the federal Medicaid dollars,” he says.
But before anything happens, Bexar County Commissioners have to be on board with Judge Wolff’s plan. They will vote Tuesday, February 26.