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Guess who proposed a bi-national health plan with Mexico back in 2001

Answer: The same guy who now says Medicaid is unconstitutional, Texas Governor Rick Perry. From a speech he gave back then:

But the effort to combat disease and illness requires greater cooperative efforts between our two nations. It is a simple truth that disease knows no boundaries. […] We have much to gain if we work together to expand preventative care, and treat maladies unique to this region.

Legislation authored by border legislators Pat Haggerty and Eddie Lucio establishes an important study that will look at the feasibility of bi-national health insurance. This study recognizes that the Mexican and U.S. sides of the border compose one region, and we must address health care problems throughout that region. That’s why I am also excited that Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar is working on an initiative that could extend the benefits of telemedicine to individuals living on the Mexican side of the border.

Right off the bat, we should mention that Perry was NOT proposing a government plan covering both countries. He was however supporting a law which directed the state to look into allowing private plans to cover services on both sides of the border. And, as the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff points out, this is actually a pretty good idea (even from a conservative point of view):

First, it targets a big problem in Texas: a lack of insurance. With 26 percent of Texans lacking insurance, the state has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country. Those numbers are even higher in Texas’s border region, according to a 2003 Texas State Senate report.

Second, it’s a private market approach, that would allow insurers to meet an unfilled consumer need. A 2005 study showed that 72 percent of Mexico-born residents of the United States would be interested in a product that covered medical services in Mexico, especially if they had dependents in Mexico who could use those services.

Third, the benefits could be numerous and largely economic. More access to preventive care and better management of chronic conditions, the Texas Senate report argued, could create a healthier workforce with “less absenteeism due to illness of the worker or family members.” More Texas residents with insurance would mean less uncompensated care, which cost the state’s border hospitals $600 million in 1999.

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