No Credit to Perry for Texas Economy, But Lots of Blame for Texas Health Care

The New York Times may not give Texas Gov. Rick Perry credit for his state's booming economy, but it will certainly attack him for his state's supposedly awful record on providing health care. Emily Ramshaw reported 'Few Bright Spots in Perry's Health Care Record' for Friday's edition.

Ramshaw, a reporter for the Texas Tribune, a left-leaning nonprofit news organization based in Austin that has a content partnership with the Times, played the same sour notes on Perry and Texas health-care statistics as the paper's regular reporters.

At campaign stops and in the three Republican presidential debates he has participated in so far, Gov. Rick Perry has made a sport out of bashing the 2006 state health insurance plan of former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. He has not missed a chance to yoke 'Romneycare' to 'Obamacare,' the federal health care reform that Republicans largely revile.

But while Mr. Perry condemns both efforts to make carrying health insurance mandatory, Texas faces a staggering crisis in health coverage: the state leads the nation in the number of uninsured residents, has the third-lowest percentage of people covered by their employers and spends less per capita than all but one other state on Medicaid, the joint state-federal insurance program for the disabled and poor children.

Ramshaw's story was slightly less slanted than the headline, allowing Perry's aides room to challenge the governor's liberal opponents.

His aides point to legislation that Mr. Perry signed to let insurers offer lower-cost, smaller-scale health plans to consumers, to let single-employee businesses join health care cooperatives and to help employers pay for their workers' health care without negative tax consequences.

During his tenure, Texas created a health insurance pool to sell policies to people with uninsurable medical conditions, Mr. Perry's office said, and received a multimillion-dollar federal grant to develop tools to increase private insurance coverage.

Texas enters the health insurance game at a disadvantage. Mr. Perry likes to remind voters that the state is responsible for more than 40 percent of new jobs created in America since June 2009. But many of those jobs are in the service industry, in agriculture, construction and the small-business sector, which either do not provide insurance or do not pay their workers enough to buy it. Texas Medicaid is austere - many low-income Texans who might qualify for public insurance in other states do not qualify in Texas.