Texas Children Must Have Health Care Coverage

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Nearly 400 Texas physicians, medical students, and hospital leaders rallied state legislators today to pass legislation that would provide health insurance to thousands of Texas children.

Physician and hospital leaders from across the state joined state Reps. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston); House Bill 109 author, John Davis (R-Houston); Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin); and Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) to encourage their colleagues to pass HB 109. The bill would restore 12 months of continuous coverage for kids in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), establish a more realistic asset test for working families, and remove the 90-day waiting period for uninsured children.

Health care leaders believe restoring the cuts made to CHIP in 2003 is a critical and important first step in reducing the number of uninsured children. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation -- 1.4 million children -- 700,000 of these children are eligible for CHIP or children's Medicaid but are not enrolled. "This is an embarrassment," said Texas Hospital Association President and CEO Dan Stultz, MD. "Texas can, and should, do better."

"Texas simply can't afford to wait any longer to address its growing uninsured population, especially when generous federal matching funds are available for CHIP," said Texas Medical Association President Ladon W. Homer, MD.

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Since 1998, Texas has forfeited more than $900 million to other states because we haven't used all the federal CHIP funds available to our state. Children's Medicaid and CHIP return Texans' tax dollars to the state. By using these programs to insure more Texas children, Texas can stretch limited tax dollars. For every dollar Texas invests in Medicaid, the federal government returns $1.54. The federal match for CHIP is even more generous -- $2.63 for every dollar Texas invests.

High rates of uninsured Texans create higher taxes and health care costs for businesses, taxpayers, and those fortunate enough to have health insurance. Dr. Homer added, "It's important state legislators recognize that gaps in health care coverage, even for a short period of time, undermine the health and well-being of children." More than 70 percent of children who lost CHIP or children's Medicaid became uninsured.

When children do not have health insurance, they are less likely to receive preventive health care. Their families often rely on community emergency departments for their medical care. Without the benefit of the federal CHIP or Medicaid matching dollars, local taxpayers end up paying the full costs of caring for uninsured children.

However, lawmakers can make a difference with their vote today and during the next 60 days by passing legislation to capture federal dollars and provide hard-working parents an affordable way to insure their children. "CHIP is good medicine for Texas children and good for Texas business," said Dr. Homer.

The Texas Medical Association and Texas Hospital Association applaud all the Texas lawmakers listed below who understand the importance of restoring CHIP cuts so that hard-working Texas families have vital health care services.

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