GOP Health Care Battle: Bay State vs. Lone Star State

Health care could become the decisive topic in the upcoming presidential election. How do the top Republican candidates match up against a president who signed into legislation a law that restructures the nation's health care system? 

For almost a century, leaders have been trying to fix a broken system of care in the United States. President Barack Obama’s historic health care victory could be an equalizer in a tough election. The frontrunners for the GOP — Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — each have a diverse history of health care legislation, reform, quality of care, and access. Does the Republican Party want to pit the governor of one of the unhealthiest, least insured states against Obama? In the battle for the nomination, Mitt Romney’s Bay State record trounces Rick Perry’s Lone Star State when it comes to health care coverage and access.

Texas

As governor, Perry was a strong believer that Texas could manage its own health care without the intervention of the federal government. He may have gotten away with that type of thinking in Texas, but since he is vying to be the next head of state, his views have become ill-suited. Under Perry’s direction, Texas has become the state with the highest percentage of uninsured people according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Perry may want to try another tactic to win the top seat because his secessionist views of health care have allowed Texas to fare worse under his direction.

As Perry touts his belief that low taxes and limited government creates business opportunities, his state ranks 51st (including Puerto Rico) in access to health care. Jobs may be “plentiful,” but the health of the everyday Texan is disintegrating. Many blame it on the high amount of undocumented workers in Texas who drain the state's resources and push their uninsured rates sky-high. These claims are inaccurate according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which states that non-citizens (legal and otherwise) only comprise one-fourth (1.6 million) of Texas’ uninsured. Even removing the possible outlier of non-citizens from Texas’ statistics, the state would still rank the worst, with 4.7 million children and adults (21.4%) lacking insurance.

Massachusetts

In comparison, Massachusetts steals the first slot in available health care. Yes, Massachusetts requires health insurance, but this has proved to be a good policy. Massachusetts wins when it comes to prevention and care with only 4.7% of its citizens lacking health insurance. Massachusetts also ranks second in the percent of children seeking preventive care, whereas Texas ranks 40th. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas had 2,567 infant deaths in 2007, whereas Massachusetts only had 385. Population may be a factor in this discrepancy, but the CDC also acknowledged that Texas’ infant mortality rates increased, while nationwide there was a downward trend.

As the Republican candidates duke it out for the nomination of their party, health care could be the impetus which forces the party’s hand and decides the winner. Romney (despite his protests) has led Massachusetts into a health care revolution. Perry’s record speaks for itself. As Texas continues to spiral downward claiming the lowest rankings, the Texas upstart will have a tough time competing against an incumbent president with a huge health achievement.

Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

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Elizabeth Elfman

Elizabeth is currently exploring health policy directly related to the expanding field of health technology. Through her work she is able to assess healthcare at both the national and federal level. Her political interests also include women's rights and international diplomacy. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she obtained a degree in political science and communication public service. She has been published in Boston Magazine and the Philadelphia Daily News.

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