Thursday, May 03, 2007

Documenting the Texas GOP atrocities: children are dying

Two months ago, on March 1st, 14-year-old Devante Johnson died of complications of kidney cancer that went untreated for four months as Texas' medical eligibility system left him in limbo, between Medicaid and CHIP coverage.

Earlier today Devante's mother, Tamika Scott joined several members of the Texas Progressive Alliance and spoke about the legislation pending in the Texas Legislature that would prevent other children from losing their medical coverage due to delays, errors, or bureaucratic bungling.

The Texas Senate is expected to debate a bill in the coming weeks that would allow children to re-apply for CHIP coverage once a year (instead of every six months), eliminate a 90-day waiting period, and allow families to deduct child care expenses when determining eligibility. Although the original bill -- HB 109 -- passed the Texas House in resounding fashion, it faces a tough battle in the Senate.

Ms. Scott was joined on the conference call by Barbara Best, the state executive director of the Children's Defense Fund, and Anne Dunkleberg, the associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

One of the overarching themes of our Republican state government is personal responsibility, particularly in the matter of the CHIP funding. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has said as much:

"I don't think most people in Texas have a lot of sympathy for someone that can't fill out a two-page application every six months.'' (Austin American-Statesman, January 25, 2007)

Tamika Scott filled out at least five sets of paperwork, but the Houston Medicaid office couldn't even look at one of them for six weeks. Their office is so inundated that it is impossible to reach them by phone.

Children are dying while office workers sift through paperwork, far behind schedule. And whether those clerks are good, hard-working people or not isn't the point. This is the kind of environment that our Republican state leadership has fostered. You could call it an unfunded mandate, but it seems more like planned incompetence to me. There are naturally many examples, but I'll cite just one more: my beer buddy Pete at Perfectly Cromulent shares the story of his daughter's illness, which is similarly impacted by a different piece of legislation.

Is this the Texas we can all be proud of? The one that simply refuses to pay for our children's education, their wellness -- hell, even the cancer that's killing them?

Please contact your representatives and tell them if it is not.

Update: Corrie MacClaggen of Postcards from the Lege points out that time is running out on the bill. Vince has noted the 17,000 Texas children kicked off CHIP just this month for clerical errors. It bears repeating that denying children health care because of paperwork is just not a classy thing to do.

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