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Hutchison Blasts TX Leaders For Leaving CHIP Funds on Table

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

The "good news" earlier today was that 28 states were about to benefit from the redistribution of more than $640 million in unspent federal dollars from the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The "bad news" was that Texas was not among the 28 state and would get nothing.

The "even worse news" - at least for Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican leadership in Texas - is that it didn't take U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas long to react to the fact that Texas not only did not receive any of the redistributed funding, but also that the state left more than $104 million on the table in 2002 allotment funds that would have benefited the state's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Hutchison called Texas' having forfeited the money not spent in 2002 a "setback for Texas taxpayers," noting it brought total CHIP funding lost by the state since 2000 to more than $700 million.

"The health care system in Texas, and particularly our county hospital network, is under enormous pressure because of the large number of uninsured patients that require treatment," said Hutchison. "As a result, our property tax payers are bearing a heavy burden."

Hutchison, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services and widely considered to be a possible opponent for fellow Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2006, added, "I regret that another significant allotment of Texas taxpayer dollars that could have helped local governments pay for their health care bills has again been voluntarily forfeited. As a simple matter of fiscal conservatism, this does not make sense."

Hutchison pointed out that for 2005, every dollar the state puts into CHIP funding, the federal government will provide $2.65 in matching funds. She also points out that is particularly beneficial to state health systems, because the match is greater than Medicaid. For every state Medicaid dollar, the federal government only matches with $1.56 in funding.

States have three years to take advantage of CHIP dollars before they are redistributed to other states. The redistribution of funds, according to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, is to help states avoid funding shortfalls in programs providing health insurance for children of low-income families.

Only Arizona, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey and Rhode Island have reported having already spent their allocation, thus they will benefit from the redistribution of funds.

State leaders have indicated that with a small budget surplus and numerous efficiencies and cost-savers outlined by the Legislative Budget Board in its state performance review, that the legislature should be able to increase CHIP funding in the next budget cycle, as well as restoring vision and dental benefits that were cut by the 78th Texas Legislature due to a more than $11 billion budget shortfall.