Can You Tell a Lifeline from a Time Bomb?

Earlier this month, our campaign reported that Governor Perry called a program more than 3.5 million Texans rely on for health care a "time bomb." Which Texans, you might ask? Almost half of all children and several hundred thousand vulnerable adults, nearly all of them expectant mothers, Texans with disabilities, or poor seniors, a lot of them in nursing homes. The program is Medicaid, and what it is really in our state is a lifeline. While some in public office like to oppose Medicaid, most Texans understand its value. After all, 9 out of 10 Texans want children's health care coverage maintained, according to state polls last year. National polls find that Medicaid is popular, just like Medicare, the similarly named program for seniors. (Some polls suggests Medicaid is just as and possibly more popular.)

Having reliable health care gives families peace of mind. It helps children grow up strong, so they get preventive care and treatment when they need it. It gives hope to the adult children of seriously ill, elderly parents. And it aids the parents of adult children with serious illnesses and disabilities.

All of these people--real Texans--see in Medicaid not a time bomb but a source of hope. Whether it's hope that a loved one will receive the care he or she needs without the family going bankrupt, or hope that a new life will start off better because an expectant mom and her baby could get care, it's a precious thing, and most voters understand that. Our elected leaders should, too.

It turns out, those who spend a lot of time looking at the state finances that Governor Perry was referring to when he made his comment have found a different time bomb in the Texas budget.

It's not that Texas offers Medicaid, because all states do that, and several of them, unlike Texas, are AAA-rated by all the major credit-rating agencies.

No, the problem in Texas is that our elected leaders fail to match state revenue to the actual need. That's true not just of health care but for public education and infrastructure like roads, too.

Don't take my word for it. Check out this expert testimony by a representative of the Texas Bond Review Board at a state hearing earlier this month:

There were politicians who got pretty riled up back when Standard & Poor's decided our country was no longer worthy of the AAA rating. But who's talking about the fact that the biggest-in-the-nation credit-rating agency said the same about Texas--and largely because our Texas leaders need to do more to keep our schools, health services, and communities strong?

The time bomb in our state budget isn't the program providing hope and a lifeline to vulnerable Texans, most of them children. It's the lack of will on the part of some officials when it comes to responding to Texans' overwhelmingly wish: to see our schools, health care, and other public systems work a little better for everyone.

Written by: Christine Sinatra, Texans Care for Children

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