January 20, 2005
More CHIP carping from KBH

Once again without directly attacking Governor Perry, Senator Hutchison is talking about how much money Texas has lost in CHIP funds.

Texas forfeited $104 million in federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program when it failed to spend all that was allocated to the state in 2002, according to recent figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


"I regret that another significant allotment of Texas taxpayer dollars that could have helped local governments pay for their health care bills has again been voluntarily forfeited," Hutchison said. "As a simple matter of fiscal conservatism, this does not make much sense."


Jennifer Harris, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said the unspent federal money is mostly a result of Texas starting its CHIP program late.

Congress allowed states to begin drawing down CHIP money in 1998, but Texas did not start its program until later, Harris said. Texas has received federal money every year since 1998 even though the program didn't start in the state until 2000.

Gov. Rick Perry's office criticized Hutchison and Congress for not passing legislation that would allow the state to keep all the money allocated to the program.

"This is a problem of the senator's own making," said Perry spokesman Robert Black. "Texas didn't lose this money, the federal government took it away because we have no effective voice on the federal health subcommittee looking out for the interests of Texas uninsured."

States have three years to spend each year's CHIP allotment before the money is redistributed to other states.

We've already heard a lot about CHIP, mostly from Comptroller Strayhorn, and I expect we'll keep hearing a lot about it as the pre-primary campaigning intensifies. The issue of CHIP funding was a big factor in the defeat of Arlene Wohlgemuth, and it was a factor in Talmadge Heflin's loss as well. The fact that restoring CHIP funding has been a stated priority of quite a few Republicans in Austin this year tells you they know that Wohlgemuthian stinginess on CHIP is a loser. Everybody who runs against Rick Perry from now until next November will hammer away at his responsibility for those cuts. If there's any justice, he'll suffer the same fate for pushing them as the others have.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 20, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

Texas forfeited $104 million in federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program when it failed to spend all that was allocated to the state in 2002,

"Use it or lose it" budgeting in government and business is one of the dumbest things ever. There's no better way to encourage otherwise fiscally prudent management to go on a wasteful spending spree in December just because they'll have their budget slashed next year if they don't.

I used to see this all the time when I worked at Lockheed, and now I'm seeing it again here. It's really, really stupid and there's no better way to guarantee stupid and unnecessary spending at the end of the year.

Posted by: Tim on January 20, 2005 6:49 PM

Tim, in theory, that's a good idea.

In reality, we have the nation's highest rate of uninsured children (25%).

"Unnecessary spending"?

Posted by: Tx bubba on January 21, 2005 12:23 AM

But Tim, it's "for the children."

You have to be evil and heartless ever to oppose any spending "for the children." :)

I write that as someone who is, of course, evil and heartless on this matter too. Just because federal matching money is allocated for a program isn't (in my view) justification in itself for states to pursue every penny of that funding. But it is easy to demagogue the public policy debate the way Hutchison and Strayhorn are, even if it doesn't contribute all that much to the debate (to be fair, Perry hasn't exactly engaged that debate himself).

I suspect, Tim, that we are in the minority of readers here. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on January 21, 2005 8:26 AM

Tim, Kevin,:

both of you state a fiscally conservative principle that I am generally in agreement with: just because dollars are budgeted, doesn't mean it is useful or productive to spend them in a given year. In some cases, there may be more money allotted than needed.

However, neither of you showed how the principle applies in THIS specific case: CHIP funding. Are both of you contending that Texas' poor children are doing just fine, and didn't need that money for health care? If so, I'd love to hear it directly, and see some evidence.

Tx Bubba brought this very point up quite succinctly, and Kevin, who posted afterwards, danced all around it skillfully, without actually addressing it. I wonder why?

Posted by: Locutor on January 21, 2005 11:47 AM

If you don't think the purpose the money is to serve is important, then you're right that leaving it on the federal table is not a big deal. But the economic consequences of high rates of uninsurance (even if you don't care about the humanitarian consequences) -- make a pretty compelling case for taking the help that is available.

Posted by: hope on January 21, 2005 11:52 AM

Apparently several of you chose to shoot first and ask questions later.

Nowhere did I say it would have been "unnecessary" to spend the remainder of those funds. Though I will say it's possible that they may have felt it would been better to spend them months down the road; who can say?

I'm merely commenting on what I believe is a badly flawed funding mechanism.

You may now put those guns back in your holsters. Sheesh.

Posted by: Tim on January 21, 2005 5:19 PM