Texas fights over health care on primary election day

Hundreds of candidates have lined up for dozens of seats in the Texas Legislature in the state’s 2020 primary election on March 3. Primary election day is also Super Tuesday, with Texas being one of 14 states up for grabs in the race for the presidential nomination.

There are several key races for legislative seats where health care is a main focus. Democrats say because Texas declined to expand Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act, medical costs are escalating and access to medical care is being blocked for even the middle class. They say frustration over cost and accessibility will help them either win a seat or hold on to a legislative slot they snatched from the Republicans in the 2018 election.


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“Health care by far is the biggest issue in my district,” said Democrat Michelle Beckley, who flipped the House District 65 seat in 2018. “That’s what teachers talk about, the elderly, moms having babies, it’s on everybody’s mind. “

Texas Republicans, meanwhile, key in on getting private insurers to expand their plans and providing transparency so people can see exactly what they are paying for when they see a doctor, said Bradford Patt, chair of TEXPAC, the Texas Medical Association’s political arm.

“For the Republicans, it’s more about opening up access without relying on government to provide health care,” Patt said. “Why put people in a system that is already broken?”

Here are some important races where heath care is a prime focus:

House District 65: Beckley ran in 2018 over frustration that she couldn’t get affordable health care to cover her small business in Denton, Texas. She beat the incumbent Republican largely over the issue and now faces a Democratic opponent in the primary. Two women are facing off for the Republican nod. Beckley carried 11 health care related bills during the last legislative session and plans to expand her efforts next year.

House District 47: Vikki Goodwin flipped this seat for the Democrats in 2018.  Five Republicans are running in the GOP primary and the winner hopes to flip it back in 2020.  Goodwin ran several health care bills in the legislature including a measure that would have extended health care benefits for new mothers for up to a year. The measure failed and Goodwin hopes to introduce a similar bill next year. Goodwin said she is aiming for a legislation that both sides of the political aisle can agree upon.

House District 66: Republican incumbent Matt Shaheen won reelection to the seat in 2018 by one percentage point, making it a high priority target for Democrats, according to the Texas Tribune. The Democratic primary features physician Aimee Garza Lopez, who helped craft legislation a year ago aimed at more transparency for medical providers. Garza Lopez also wants to eliminate insurance companies denying medical care orders from physicians. She says that one out of four physician orders in Texas are denied by insurance companies.  Shaheen declined to comment.

House District 148: Democrat Garnet F. Coleman has held the seat since 1991, earning a reputation as an expert on health care for the poor and the uninsured. Coleman co-authored legislation that simplified access to children’s Medicaid for more than 600,000 children in Texas. He faces two challengers in the Democratic field including Colin Ross, who says his business background will help guide the Houston district into the future.