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Finally, some good news on the uninsured

Resource type: News

The Houston Chronicle | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

By Anne Dunkelberg and Eileen Garcia and Laura Guerra-Cardus

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau on health insurance coverage confirm what parents all over Texas will tell you: Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are lifelines for our state’s children.

While unemployment has doubled since 2007, the number of uninsured Texan children has actually fallen. That’s not a happy accident – it’s because Texas lawmakers took action in 2007 and 2009 to protect more children against becoming uninsured when their parents lose jobs, through Medicaid and CHIP.

The census numbers show that, since 2000, the percentage of kids who have health insurance through their parents’ jobs fell by one-fourth. But thanks to Children’s Medicaid and CHIP, Texas has actually been able to reduce the number of uninsured kids by about 165,000 since the recession began.

This is proof of the value Medicaid and CHIP deliver for Texas kids and families every day, and why the protections they provide are more important today than ever.

Investments in Medicaid and CHIP ensure that, when hard-working families face tough times, children can still count on getting the preventive care they need to stay healthy and focused in school. And because health care costs are a big driver of bankruptcies, covering kids through Medicaid and CHIP helps families battered by the economy hang on until they can get back on their feet.

But the value of Medicaid and CHIP goes way beyond children’s health. Medicaid ensures our hospitals have the funds they need to serve our communities. Medicaid also ensures that our seniors can get the care they need when they can no longer live independently on their own. It ensures that neighbors living with disabilities can get physical therapy and equipment like wheelchairs and oxygen tanks.

And it brings federal funds into Texas’ economy, protecting local jobs in doctors’ offices and hospitals right here in Houston.

A congressional supercommittee created by the recent federal budget is working on a new round of budget-balancing proposals. It’s critical for our kids, our parents, our friends and neighbors and our health care jobs that they find solutions that protect the federal government’s commitment to Medicaid.

Proposals like block grants and spending caps would simply make more Texans uninsured. And since being uninsured doesn’t mean needing less health care, we’ll all have to pay when hospitals are forced to shift those costs to small businesses and families with private insurance. That’s not a solution – it’s a shell game.

The federal government faces real budget problems, but our leaders in Congress must find real solutions. Consider this example. A typical Texas worker earning $50,000 a year pays a marginal federal tax rate of 25 percent. But Wall Street hedge fund managers with incomes measured in the millions, or even billions, of dollars pay a federal tax rate of just 15 percent. Closing just that one loophole would cut the federal budget deficit by $25 billion over 10 years.

We need a balanced approach that includes not only smart ways to actually reduce health care costs, but also common-sense revenue options like these that allow us to deliver the health care Texans need.

And that means we need real leadership from supercommittee co-chair Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, and other Texas lawmakers. If they insist on real solutions from the budget supercommittee, we can find smarter ways to balance the federal budget and continue to protect Texas kids and families from the worst effects of a bad economy.


Dunkelberg is associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Garcia is chief executive officer of Texans Care for Children and Guerra-Cardus is associate director for Children’s Defense Fund – Texas.


The Center for Public Policy Priorities, Texans Care for Children and the Children’s Defense Fund are members of Engage Texas, an Atlantic grantee.