For years, the Texas Legislature has rebuffed efforts to expand Obamacare in Texas.

That could change in 2021, thanks to a small group of Republicans.

House Bill 3871 by Democrat State Rep. Julie Johnson (Carrollton) would create a program called “Live Well Texas.” Ultimately, it expands Medicaid in Texas by allowing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to seek what is called a Section 1115 waiver and draw down money under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.” 

Such legislation would be necessary to expand the program due to a bill passed in 2013 that requires the Health & Human Services Commission to first receive approval by the Legislature before any Medicaid expansion decision is made.

Both parties’ platforms have clear positions on the subject. The Texas Democrat Party platform states their support for “policies and programs that expand Medicaid coverage to improve healthcare access coverage in Texas.” Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Texas’ platform directly states, “We oppose any further expansion of Medicaid.”

That hasn’t stopped nine Republicans from joining Democrats in co-authoring the bill, bringing the current count to 76—a majority of the Texas House.

While Johnson’s particular bill has not yet received a hearing in the House Human Service Committee, the topic is expected to come up in the form of pre-filed amendments by several Democrat members during Thursday’s debate of the state budget.

The nine Republicans currently joining Democrats in supporting the measure are State Reps. Lyle Larson (San Antonio), Steve Allison (San Antonio), Kyle Kacal (College Station), Dan Huberty (Humble),  Ernest Bailes (Shepherd), Travis Clardy (Nacogdoches), Stan Lambert (Abilene), Phil Stephenson (Wharton), and John Raney (Bryan).

Ahead of the legislative session in January, Speaker of the House Dade Phelan said he didn’t believe Medicaid expansion was “on the table,” adding, “I don’t think the votes are there for expansion.”

Notably, none of the Republican members currently signed onto the proposal are on Phelan’s leadership team or hold chairman positions in the chamber.