It is no secret that Texas is facing difficult budget challenges that will have to be addressed in the 2013 session of the Texas Legislature. Spending decisions on transportation, water, education and health care will affect the lives of Texas families for years to come.
Texas is experiencing rapid population growth, and this is especially true for children. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 6.9 million children live in Texas. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of children in the U.S. increased by 1.9 million; over one-half (53%) of this increase was due to the increase in the number of children in Texas.
The children’s hospitals of Texas—already dealing with the challenges of serving this growing population—will be asking the legislature to improve funding for children’s healthcare in the state.
Every two years, Texas legislators must write a balanced budget. The budget passed in 2011 was “balanced” in that budgeted expenditures did not exceed the anticipated revenues for 2012 and 2013. However, in order to balance the budget, the Texas Legislature made significant reductions in education and health programs and pushed some expenses forward for the next legislature to address.
In 2011, the Legislature did not fully fund Medicaid services for the current state fiscal year, 2013, which runs from September 1, 2012 through August of 2013. One of the first items of business will be to appropriate $4.7 billion to pay for Medicaid and other health and human services programs for the rest of this current fiscal year.
More than three million children in Texas are enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), making these programs indispensable to Texas families. This is an investment in the health of children that goes hand in hand with our investment in public education.
To the children’s hospitals of Texas, these are not just facts and statistics. We see vulnerable sick and injured children in our outpatient clinics, physician offices and hospitals each and every day. Our hospitals are the pediatric safety net for all Texas children, providing specialized care they cannot receive elsewhere from all across Texas. In 2010, the eight Children’s Hospital Association of Texas member hospitals served children from all but 13 of Texas’ 254 counties.
Medicaid serves children with disabilities, children in foster care and children in lower income families, who tend to have more health care problems. Children’s hospitals care for the sickest and most medically complex children. As a result, more than half of the children admitted to children’s hospitals are covered by Medicaid.
If state funding for children’s Medicaid does not keep up with the costs necessary to serve a growing child population, children’s hospitals will face major difficulties in providing the range of comprehensive services that any child in Texas could need someday.
Although there are many challenges, Texas is blessed with a prosperous economy and a growing population. Our state’s children deserve to grow up as healthy as possible, and we should ensure that they have access to top-quality medical care. Tough budget decisions will be made in the coming months, and, funding for children’s health programs must be a top priority.
Bryan Sperry is the president of the Texas Children’s Hospital Association. Member hospitals include Children’s Medical Center (Dallas/Plano), Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Cook Children’s Health Care System (Fort Worth), Covenant Children’s Hospital (Lubbock), Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas (Austin), Driscoll Children’s Hospital (Corpus Christi), El Paso Children’s Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital (Houston).