April 12, 2007
Dewhurst and CHIP

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst keeps getting shelled for his uncompassionate and non-sensible position on CHIP.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst drew fire Wednesday from several clergy members and leaders of a community action group who said they have lost patience with him on funding the Children's Health Insurance Program.

It is hypocritical for Dewhurst, they said, to dismiss low-income families' concerns about signing CHIP re-enrollment forms every six months when Dewhurst himself has failed to properly fill out basic business forms affecting some of his business interests.

"We don't have patience with the lieutenant governor who doesn't understand the problems that affect working families of Texas. He says he supports our children, but he hasn't lived up to it," said the Rev. Kevin Collins, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Houston and a leader with The Metropolitan Organization.


The Network of Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Organizations, which includes the TMO, wants lawmakers to spend the extra $78 million to return CHIP to 12-month eligibility instead of six months, something the House budget bill already has done. The program's enrollment period shrank four years ago when lawmakers cut the program back as a money-saving measure.

Many families do not re-enroll every six months, which drops children from coverage. Dewhurst has said most Texans don't have much sympathy "for someone that can't fill out a two-page application every six months."

Apparently, the combination of this criticism, plus the Lone Star Project revelations (PDF) about Dewhurst's own paperwork issues caused Dewhurst to lose his cool at that press conference yesterday. The bad news is that there's no video of his outburst. The good news is that all the pressure seems to be having an effect:

"Let's get off this debate of 6 months or 12 months," he said. "That's not the issue. ... That's something made up by some zealots and magnified by the press."

His answer? "I've been intrigued," he said, by the idea of having the state check families' eligibility with great frequency, so that children would stay on CHIP indefinitely, until the state learned they were ineligible. He didn't explain the concept, which he called "continuous enrollment." But he said he wants to study some other states' moves in that direction.

I'll gladly accept the "zealot" label if it means my side has won the argument. I'm not sure yet what the details will be of what Dewhurst is proposing, but he's stopped making that stupid and insulting "What's so hard about filling out one number on an application every six months?" statement, and that's a big step in the right direction. Patricia Kilday Hart has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 12, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo