When I came to Texas Children’s Hospital 29 years ago, our mission was and always has been to ensure every child in our community and beyond has easy access to health care.
Last week, a study from Georgetown University Health Policy Institute challenged that. The study found that for the first time in nearly a decade, the number of uninsured children in the United States is increasing. Even more concerning, Texas now leads the nation with the largest percentage of children without medical health coverage. This is an unacceptable and alarming trend, and I know we are better than this study would have us believe.
We are the state that took the first man to the moon, the state leading our country into energy independence, the community that rallied its resources and demonstrated to the world what courage and humanity mean after Hurricane Harvey. We are home to an impressive number of Nobel laureates. Yet, we struggle with insuring all children with health coverage. We can and must do better.
In a state with so many resources, a strong economy and so many health coverage options available, families should not be uninsured. Children should not have to rely on a patchwork of emergency services to bridge them from one illness or injury to the next. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide essential health care to children of working families. And I’m proud that at Texas Children’s, we were so committed to increasing access and coverage for children that we created Texas Children’s Health Plan more than 20 years ago.
That commitment is even stronger today. We now cover more than 440,000 children across Texas enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. We created the nation’s largest pediatric primary care network, and we partner with local organizations at outreach events to increase the number of children and pregnant women with health care coverage.
We also dedicate time and resources to lobby legislators in Austin and Washington and advocate on behalf of our patients and families. This isn’t politics – our aim is to keep CHIP and Medicaid funded for our families. The recent election demonstrated that health care matters to a lot of people. We must find ways to ease or eliminate existing political and administrative barriers for families to get proper health care coverage.
While the Georgetown study heightens awareness about this disturbing trend, I am encouraged because I know Texas Children’s is working every day to make it better. This study just proves there’s still work to do, and children and families need Texas Children’s – all of us – continuing the fight for them. So keep paying attention. Keep voting. Keep talking about this. Together, we can help children’s health care in Texas and the rest of the country get back on track.