By Frances Deviney
Well, Anne’s at it again! Our associate director Anne Dunkelberg has been sought out for her expertise on health policy in Texas for a new series of reports by First Focus called Big Ideas: Children of the Southwest. In it, experts from seven southwestern states talk about why we have a record low percentage of uninsured children across the country and how we can continue that progress in the years to come.
Although the uninsured rate in Texas is still one of the worst (if not the worst – depending on what measures you use) in the country, Texas and the Southwest made more improvements in reducing the child uninsured rate than the rest of the country combined. That’s progress!
To continue down this road, we first have to acknowledge that the change is due to the positive choices we’ve made at the state and federal levels. Choices like adding resources to improve the system where families sign their children up for coverage (e.g., more people to review applications, better training, more technology improvements) and making it easier to get coverage (e.g. allowing applications and renewals by mail).
And Anne’s Big Idea for the future, which is included in the newest installment to the Big Ideas report, is something that I think we can all agree on: “What I would really love is to get to the point where coverage is no longer the issue and we have the time and resources to focus on quality and access within those coverage programs.”
Unfortunately, the 2011 Legislature made substantial cuts to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which threaten that progress.
It’s time to decide: What will we do? Will we choose to protect and promote the long-term health of our entire state instead of focusing on short-term political gains? And that requires grown-up conversations about child health and the importance of a strong, rational revenue system. After last legislative session, Texas’ budget became so bare bones that there’s no room for advancing, much less sustaining, our progress for kids’ health coverage.