Cites disparities between border area and central Texas
AUSTIN - Following a Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) press conference held Monday, Representative Ryan Guillen reiterated that proposed cuts in the health and human services budget were unfair and, "cut sick and helpless children and the elderly of Texas to the bone."
His remarks came after a press conference in the state capitol Monday in response to an announcement last week of $4 billion in cuts to services offered by 11 Health and Human Services Agencies in Texas. These cuts are expected to lead to the loss of another $6 billion in federal matching funds, a total $10 million loss in services to the people of Texas.
Guillen noted that estimates of the impact of cuts proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services would remove 250,000 children from the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Citing figures from the Department of Health and Human Services, Guillen pointed out that, "In Starr County 15.7% of the children are enrolled in the CHIP insurance program, while in Austin only 1% benefit from the same program. In Webb County the total is 13.6 percent. In Zapata County it is 13.1 percent. In Duval County it is 15.3 percent. It is hardly fair to propose cuts that are so incredibly disproportionate."
Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine said it was not right to place the burden of the state's financial situation on the backs of a quarter million kids.
Many of the speakers at the press conference laid the blame for the proposed cuts squarely on Gov. Rick Perry's office.
"Governor Perry called for state agencies to tighten their belts. Many of us in the House of Representatives expected cuts in inefficiencies, travel, renovations, and other non-critical budget items that do not include direct services and care to Texas citizens," the representative commented.
"This would leave these children at risk and their parents unable to provide the same level of medical security they were promised when this program was initiated," Guillen said.
"The first rule of medicine is Do No Harm' as part of the Hippocratic Oath, and the people proposing these cuts seem to have forgotten that," Guillen stated. He said the action by HHS Commissioner Albert Hawkins is a move toward the past.
"We were not told we were going to sacrifice the health of children we are already committed to take care of," he said.
CHIP is a federal-state program for children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. Some 500,000 Texas children are currently enrolled.
Under the new budget proposal, the CHIP program would lower income eligibility limits. It would also increase co-payment requirements. Officials estimate 281,000 children would be served in fiscal year 2004 and 250,709 in 2005.
Guillen also blasted the cuts proposed in Medicaid, He said the HHS proposal would cut 33 percent in the amount of money the state reimburses doctors, hospitals and other health care providers who treat Medicaid patients.
"This action will also affect the health of the poorest, the youngest, and the oldest citizens in our state, those least able to provide these services for themselves," Guillen insisted. He called the six-month renewal rule a transparent attempt to push people out of the programs. He added that the cuts would also do serious harm to the operations of hospitals and other medical providers.
The representative noted that Texas has made progress in health care in the last 15 years and said the budget cuts put that progress in danger. He cited the following statistics:
The infant mortality rate decreased. Infant mortality has improved between 1985 and 1996 from 9 to 6 deaths per 1,000 births. Texas' ranking* among the states has improved from 19th in 1992 to 12th in 1995.
The child death rate decreased. The child death rate has gone down from 37 to 28 deaths per 100,000 1-14 year olds. The leading causes of death for children are accidents, malignant neoplasms (cancers), homicide, and suicide. Homicide is the third leading cause of death for children 1-14 and the second leading cause for youth 15-24. The decline in child death rates mirrors similar declines in other states and our ranking is 26th in the nation.
The teen violent death rate decreased. Between 1985 and 1996 the teen violent death rate went from 81 to 66 per 100,000 15-19 year olds. Here again, Texas has improved in comparison to other states; the rank has improved from 36th in 1992 to 26th in 1995.
The dropout rate decreased. According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), estimated longitudinal dropout rates decreased from 34 percent in the 1987-88 school year to 9.1 percent in the 1996-7 school year.
and between 1992 and 1996, more mothers received prenatal care. More mothers are receiving prenatal care, thus improving their babies' chances of prospering. The portion of mothers receiving little or no prenatal care fell from 8.9 percent in 1992 to 5.2 percent in 1996. Most women reported starting prenatal care in the first trimester (75.5% in 1994; up to 78% in 1996).
He also cited a letter from Michael D. Snow, Chairman of the Texas Health Association and Fred Merian, M.D., President of the Texas Medical Association.
"These leaders in Texas medical care had the following to say about this plan, " said Guillen.
The Governor has stated his strong commitment to children's health. It would be inconsistent with that commitment to reduce funding for those programs that keep children healthy. It is imperative that we all take a close look at the people we are talking about. The reductions announced today would:
Eliminate at least 200,000 children from the highly successful CHIP program;
Eliminate nursing home care for 41,000 elderly Texans;
Eliminate all adult medication benefits under Medicaid; and
Eliminate services for 13,000 pregnant women and 5,000 medically needy Texans.'
For more information contact:
Communications Director Robert McVey
Southern District Office: