Are The People Who Run Texas Human Beings?
Are the people who run the State of Texas human beings in the sense that we associate humanity with the possession of basic morality and regard for life? In the ten years I’ve lived in Texas I’ve wondered about this more than once. A recent Houston Chronicle story about the debate over expansion of children’s health insurance, taking place in that malignancy known as the Texas Legislature, made me ponder this question again.
One in five children in Texas lack health insurance. It’s another way we hate children for not having the ability to pay their own way. Children are in this regard as despicable as old people and wounded veterans. Drains on society. Is their any more certain death sentence in our society than the widespread expression of care and sentiment?
The debate over children’s health care this year will be as arduous as ever, but so is the ante: More than 160,000 Texas children whose cash-strapped parents can’t get state help to pay medical expenses for maladies as common as chronic ear infections or as daunting as cancer treatment. The argument among legislators will be whether to raise income-eligibility levels so that those children can join the 451,000 now covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Supporters say reducing the number of uninsured youngsters — now one in five — would benefit not only the children’s physical health but the fiscal health of Texas taxpayers. The federal government picks up 72 percent of the cost and providing health care in doctors’ offices is almost always cheaper than treating children in public hospital emergency rooms.
Critics worry about undermining employer-sponsored health coverage and point to the growing costs for the state. CHIP enrollment increases over the past two years have driven the state’s tab from $102 million to $267.5 million. There are no monthly premiums but families pay an annual enrollment fee of $50 and most co-payments for doctor visits or prescription drugs range from $3 to $10. A pending federal bill that renews CHIP is expected to allow Texas to increase income limits so more can enroll. The current limit for a mother and two children of $35,200 could be increased to $52,800. Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston…Cohen this week plans to introduce a bill that would expand CHIP and take advantage of anticipated new federal funds. “Since 2003, Texas has turned away almost $1 billion of federal matching funds by failing to invest in CHIP,” Cohen said. “As a result, we are left with the highest uninsured population of children in the nation.” Gov. Rick Perry’s spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said the governor does not support expanding CHIP’s eligibility standards because of the higher income families who would be covered. She said Congress is trying to lure the state into expanding programs in tough times and doing so would put the state on a “slippery slope to socialized medicine.”
Children living in middle-income families are increasingly joining the ranks of the uninsured. That is largely because employer-based health insurance premiums have more than doubled since 2000. The average annual cost to employees is $3,355 and the cost to employers is $9,325, for a total cost of $12,680, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only half of Texas private-sector employers offer insurance, and among small businesses, the percentage drops to 34, the federal government reports.
The “slippery slope to socialized medicine.” Sure. We can’t have that. We”ll just have all these kids without health insurance.