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Comptroller's Desk
Insurance Cuts Have Human Cost

In health and human services, like education, Texas is abdicating its responsibilities. Ignoring state challenges is creating local crises.

At the end of the last regular session, laws were signed that left Texas dead last among states in the percentage of children who have health insurance. And due to state budget cuts in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Texas is leaving $1.6 billion on the table in federal funds.

Just since last September, 119,000 children have been dropped from CHIP. That's a 23 percent drop in six months. That's unconscionable.

You don't make the reductions that were made without a human cost. You know and I know that these children don't simply disappear. They turn up in local emergency rooms. We effectively have taken a challenge for the state and created a crisis for the cities.

My bottom line and the true fiscal conservative's bottom line--I'd rather spend $72 a month insuring a child and $500 immunizing a child for a lifetime, than $6,700 for one hospital stay for that child.

I estimate that there are $469.3 million that could be distributed by budget execution now and another $113.4 million that could be appropriated in special session to fully restore CHIP and address other severe health care cuts.

If nothing is done, thousands more will begin falling off the CHIP rolls when a new system of means testing begins. Under new guidelines that will likely become the law of the land next month, any family with assets of more than $5,000 will be kicked out of the program.

That's not means testing, that's mean testing.

I am not advocating big government solutions to intractable problems. Government cannot be all things to all people. The failures of the past have demonstrated this conclusively.

But, no state can be great it if it casts aside its weakest members. No state can ignore the cries of the frailest voices among its citizens. No Texan in need should be consigned to the dustbin of convenience and political expediency.

For Texas government the message of the 21st Century is crystal clear. We must be leaner. We must not be meaner.

If the promise of the future is built on the success of our children, we must do everything in our power to ensure that success.

Texas is great, but we can do better.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Texas Comptroller