Don’t follow Texas’ lead

DON’T FOLLOW TEXAS’ LEAD…. The Washington Post ran an op-ed today on health care policy co-written by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas). That, in and of itself, is a little odd — when I think of conservatives with credibility on health care, Gingrich (a disgraced former Speaker who shut down the government 14 years ago, in part over cutting Medicare) and Perry (a Glenn-Beck-loving right-winger who recently raised the prospect of secession) aren’t the first names that come to mind.

Nevertheless, they have a case to make.

Congress seems intent on forcing a one-size-fits-all mandate on states, some of which actually have solutions to repair their health-care systems that Washington is preventing them from trying.

Texas, for example, has adopted approaches to controlling health-care costs while improving choice, advancing quality of care and expanding coverage. Consider the successful 2003 tort reform. Fewer frivolous lawsuits have attracted record numbers of doctors to the state as medical malpractice insurance premiums dropped by half. Christus Health, a large Catholic nonprofit system with a significant presence in Texas, spent about $100 million on liability defense payments in 2003. Last year, Christus spent $2.3 million on such payments. Much of that savings has gone into expanding health-care services in low-income neighborhoods.

What Gingrich and Perry neglected to mention is that Texas is a disaster for the uninsured: “Texas currently leads the nation in the rate of uninsured, with more than 25 percent of the state’s residents lacking health-care coverage. If you limit the analysis to residents under age 65, which takes seniors covered by the national Medicare program out of the data, 28 percent of Texans are uninsured…. Letting Perry serve as the spokesman for a federalist solution to the health-care system is a bit like letting Dick Fuld testify on the adequacy of self-regulation on Wall Street, or Donald Rumsfeld explain that occupations are easy.”

For that matter, the vaunted “tort reform” measure in Texas, passed six years ago, has screwed over a few too many Texans.

As for Texas investing “savings” in “health-care services in low-income neighborhoods,” I can think of several thousand Texans who’d love to hear all about it.

It’s these pesky details that get Gingrich and Perry every time.