A year after Houston resident Teresa Little fought for custody of her two grandchildren, she found out her granddaughter Lana had a rare neurological disease that affects just 500 children nationwide. "Imagine having a disease which combines the very worst symptoms of muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, immune system deficiencies and cancer all rolled in one," said Little, who has relied on the Texas Medicaid program to cover Lana's care.
Little and hundreds of others rallied at the Capitol today to urge lawmakers to maintain state spending on Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, joint state-federal health plans that cover more than 3 million Texans, and are facing an estimated $7 billion in cuts in the current House budget bill.
If lawmakers cut funding to these programs, the state will be forced to give up roughly $10 billion in federal matching funds, said Lan Bentsen, chairman of the Children's Defense Fund's Texas Advisory Board — funding that will have to be made up by local governments. "That’s really bad math, and they want to get away with it," he said. "It’s up to us to stop them."
State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said nearly 1.5 million children in the state are uninsured, and the budget reductions will only increase this number. "Many of these kids are so vulnerable, and many of these families are living on the margins of life," he said. "For them, we’re talking about life and death decisions."
State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said during the best and worst of economic times, lawmakers have said the state could not fund these programs. "At some point we ought to be honest about what we’re doing," Ellis said. "We’re really saying to our children, to our future leaders, we’re saying we’re just not going to address your needs."