August 25, 2004
Still CHIPping away

The Legislative Budget Board has approved more spending, but CHIP is still getting stiffed.

Legislative leaders approved $591 million in state spending Monday to restore health care for the needy but let deep cutbacks in the Children's Health Insurance Program stand.

The additional spending, mostly approved last week by Gov. Rick Perry, will result in $1.5 billion more for various health needs once federal funds are added.

"With this action today, we're helping out some of the neediest in our society children, elderly frail and the disabled," said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, co-chairman of the Legislative Budget Board, which sets spending priorities.

The funding will cut in half an expected shortfall for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, maintain current reimbursement rates for doctors and restore Medicaid benefits for pregnant women and the disabled.

It would nearly end the waiting list for the Children with Special Health Needs program.


Democrats and advocates for children criticized the board and the governor for shortchanging CHIP, which has cut 147,000 children from the program since September.

"It's very clear today they left out a lot of services that could have been restored. No. 1 on that list was CHIP," said Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.

Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick noted that after Monday's funding approval, $207 million remains that technically could have been spent now. Coleman and others said the LBB had no reason not to spend $91 million less than half of what remained now to restore CHIP.

Dewhurst said it would be more prudent to wait to spend the $207 million. He said some of it is already earmarked to help fund an emergency appropriation early next year for educational and other needs.

More here.

A Craddick spokesman said disputes over participation the health programs overlook that "anyone who is eligible for Medicaid gets it if they apply, and anyone who is eligible for CHIP gets it if they apply. ... Who is responsible for that?

"Bottom line is that the state's budget situation is not good and we're doing the best we can for the neediest Texans and the taxpayers who are footing the bill for this health insurance."

Is it just me, or does he sound a little touchy? Maybe all that criticism is starting to have an effect.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 25, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack