Perry's Office Freezes Over
The governor has a compassion attack or perhaps electoral indigestion
Or maybe it was just a sudden attack of compassion. Whatever the reason, last week Gov. Rick Perry directed the Health and Human Services Commission to "suspend indefinitely" a plan requiring some 20,000 families to either pony up a new, higher fee for CHIP coverage or have their children dropped from the program. The governor suggested that either a different fee schedule or else "incentives" like restoring eliminated dental coverage be considered to get families back in compliance. Since advocates reported that at least some families had been forced to choose between paying the new fees and providing emergency dental care for no-longer-covered children, maybe an incentive program or just restoring CHIP to what it was before has begun to make sense.
But the miracles didn't stop there. This week, the governor announced that after months of political pressure by sources ranging from patient advocates to Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, he was restoring some $561 million in health care funds that had been cut from the last budget. Perry credited "greater cost-effectiveness" and "fiscal discipline" for the ability to restore the funds, although much of the sum came from federal aid allocated to help the cash-strapped states in just such a fix. The money will go to restore Medicaid coverage to pregnant women, support higher caseloads in Medicaid and CHIP, and other health care needs.
The announcement didn't come without some political feedback. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick suggested dryly that they had been prepared to act on the allocation themselves at next week's meeting of the Legislative Budget Board suggesting Perry had jumped the gun and taken the credit. And state Rep. Aaron Peña, speaking on behalf of the Tejano Democrats, was even harsher. He compared Perry's action to "a guy who expects to get a pat on the back for pulling out a garden hose when it was he who set your house on fire."
Amy Smith, Fri., Feb. 2, 2007
Amy Smith, Fri., March 24, 2006
Michael King, Fri., March 26, 2004
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