22% of children in Texas have no health insurance and that makes Texas the worst in the nation. And recent state budget cuts are threatening to make that number even higher. The reason? Cuts to CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, which is the state's only health insurance assistance available to low income families.
The recent cuts mean the numbers are only going to grow and continue to put a financial strain on local hospitals. Last year CHIP helped almost 500,000 children statewide, about 45,000 in Lubbock County.
State budget cuts created new rules and now one third of the children currently using CHIP -will be disqualified. "Anytime you have a decrease in the number of folks eligible for CHIP and a decrease of the coverage level, that's going to increase the number of unfunded care we provide to patients through UMC," said Greg Bruce, Division Director of UMC.
University Medical Center Division Director, Greg Bruce says that's going to make their financial future tight. "On an annual basis during 2002 UMC provided $10 million worth of unfunded care, to pediatric patients that was from birth to 18-years-old," Bruce said.
A number that is only expected to grow, but Bruce says they are already looking at ways to save and cut back. The issue, however, is much bigger than the funding problem. "Children are our future, the are the future of the city and certainly the state and anytime you have a child that doesn't have adequate health coverage especially early in life it puts them behind," Bruce said.
Lisa Spears knows this situation all to well. She is a working single mother of two, who's benefited from CHIP for the last two years. "The government budget cuts of the CHIP allocated budget has set me and my employment bracket at a level where I am not able to receive the insurance because I actually work, I have a job and maintain self sufficiency," says Spears.
For Lisa, this means her son who suffers severe allergies will not be able to take the medicine that has kept him well for two years. "I'm very upset for the fact that I am a hard working single parent who has never received assistance and never asked for it up until now for my children and now they are taking that away," Spears said.
Lisa plans to write our local Representatives, and Congressman about her situation hoping for another chance. But for now, of the almost 45,000 children receiving help in Lubbock County. Approximately 15,000 of them will no longer get the coverage.