Kids' Advocates Push to Restore Texas Medicaid Funds
AUSTIN, Texas – Budget cuts to the Texas Medicaid program have left many of the state's poorest children with little or no access to necessary health care, according to children's advocates. They say despite calls by some in the Texas Legislature to restore funding, the current Senate budget plan underfunds Medicaid by at least $1.9 billion and includes an across-the-board budget cut that threatens care for many recipients.
Cheasty Anderson, a senior policy associate with the Children's Defense Fund-Texas, says the cuts are hitting families with special needs children the hardest.
"When you look at a Senate budget that underfunds the needs, and on top of that, implements a 1.5 percent cut to all Health and Human Services programs, it's hard to see how that would improve conditions for families who rely on Medicaid," she said.
A coalition of advocacy groups is planning "Cover Texas Now," a rally and advocacy day at the capitol on March 6th. Anderson says in addition to restoring children's health care funds, the group will also call for restoring Medicaid therapy cuts for children with disabilities, and protecting Texans from a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
At a recent committee hearing on the budget, Kyla McKay of Pasadena testified that her child has life-threatening conditions and Medicaid is what keeps her alive.
"Katy is an active, intelligent child with her medical challenges," she said. "Her future could be very bright, but if she loses access to her physicians and the medical equipment she relies on to survive, she might not have a future."
Anderson says in its budget-cutting fervor, the legislature is leaving behind those who need health care benefits the most.
"The state legislature spends a lot of time talking about cutting costs and cutting the budget, but when they make those cuts, the need doesn't disappear," added Anderson. "What ends up happening is that they are shifting their responsibility to local entities, like county and city taxing authorities."
Texas is one of 19 states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and still has both the highest rate and number of uninsured people in the country.