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The Brief: March 23, 2010

After another kind of binge, hair of the dog is the best cure — even the New Yorker says so. So let’s ease those CSPAN hangovers with some analysis of the health care bill’s effects in Texas.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

After a binge, hair of the dog is the best cure — even the New Yorker says so. So let’s ease those CSPAN hangovers with some analysis of the health care bill’s effects in Texas.

Texas leaders, including Gov. Rick Perry, say that because the reform will force the state to fork out more to cover the poor, it will have to reduce spending in other areas like schools, roads, and prisons. But Anne Dunkelberg, the associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities disagrees, pointing to the “huge economic benefit” from the federal funds and the reduced need for state taxpayer money to fund charity hospitals.

The legislation will offer insurance to about half of the state’s six million uninsured. It will also “dramatically expand” Medicaid in Texas, adding up to 1 million adults to the state’s program. Starting in 2014, citizens making less than $14,000 a year and families of four with incomes under $29,000 would qualify. Until 2017, the federal government will take on all of that cost. After that, Texas' share would increase gradually from 5 percent to 10 percent in 2020. Despite the federal subsidy, this expansion could be a “serious strain on the state budget,” requiring “hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue,” according to The Texas Tribune’s Emily Ramshaw.

The procedure of adding new citizens to the program could tax the state’s already pinched enrollment system — the Austin American-Statesman notes the same system has failed to process food stamp request on time and had a backlog of 42,000 application.

Public hospitals may also have to tighten their belts. While the reform will provide health insurance to many of the poor who seek their services, it also changes federal reimbursement formulas in a way that reduces supplemental payments to those hospitals.

Now for the local focus: In Dallas-Fort Worth, small business owners worry that the legislation, which holds stricter requirements for workplace insurance, will burden their companies. Bexar County, the biomedicine hub where a quarter of the population is uninsured, could see a positive effect on its tax rolls. Currently, the county uses most of its $270 million in local property taxes to pay for the care of those without insurance. If the federal government shoulders some of that burden, that money could be used in other ways.

Then there are the Texans who are just trying to puzzle out the details of 1,900 page law. Go here for a round-up of reactions from members of the medical, insurance, and business communities.

CULLED:

· Good cop, bad cop. Baby-killer” is indeed Texan Randy Neugebauer. The Lubbock Republican, who apologized for the outburst, encountered a mixture of outrage and mild censure from his House colleagues across the aisle: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said, “He needs to go to the well. He disrupted the decorum of the House of Representatives,” while House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer only said, “He’s apologized. I don’t think further action is needed.”

· The healthcare fight is over, so on to the next logical question: is U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison resigning? Two guesses as to the answer. (OK, fine — we don’t know yet.)

· Hank Skinner, the man sentenced to death for killing three people on New Year Eve’s 1993, lost his clemency bid in front of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. He will face execution as early as tomorrow. For more on Skinner, see The Texas Tribune’s coverage.

“Republicans have won the bumper-sticker war thus far. But Democrats won the bill and they have an advantage selling a fait accompli. Republicans should not lick their chops yet."  Independent pollster John Zogby to the Houston Chronicle

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