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Hundreds Rally for Children’s Healthcare

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Healthcare advocates and families gathered outside the Capitol this afternoon with a clear message to legislators—provide Texas children with health coverage. Now.

About 300 people from all corners of the state arrived in Austin to advocate for children on Medicaid and CHIP and to urge legislators to restore deep budget cuts. Right now, the House version of the budget bill cuts billions from both. Catastrophic provider rate reductions would make it more expensive for pediatricians and specialists to treat sick children on the programs. Approximately 1.5 million children are already without insurance.

“That is not a good report card to have,” state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, told the crowd. “We are chopping off the future of our state and we’re saying that we don’t value our children … if you want to be a first-class state, protect the children.”

One Houston grandma fired up the crowd with her family’s story. Teri Little relies on Medicaid to pay the costs of her grandchildren’s health care. The program is particularly vital to the family because her granddaughter has a rare genetic disorder; without Medicaid it would cost the Little thousands.

“The thought of losing services is downright frightening,” Little said. “These are just two of the 3 million children in Texas on Medicaid, so on behalf of them, I implore you – please leave our Medicaid alone.”

Turner and state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, have been vocal all session about their disapproval of such drastic cuts to Medicaid and other health and human services. Ellis, who also spoke at the rally, argued that while the Senate version “still makes draconian cuts that will impact the most vulnerable citizens.”

To help fund the progams, speakers argued for using the state’s $9.4 billion Rainy Day fund savings and eliminating old tax breaks.

“Tell the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker not to balance the budget on the backs of our children,” Turner said.

Lan Bentsen, chairman of the Children’s Defense Fund in Texas, said the current version of the budget would create irreversible consequences, such as overcrowded emergency rooms and increased high school dropout rates.

“We need a workforce, but what we have is a budget that undermines that,” he said. “This is just bad math.”

The rally and advocacy day activities were organized by Cover Texas Now, a coalition of faith-based and consumer groups such as Texas Impact, the Center for Public Policy Priorities and ADAPT Texas, to name a few, that are all pushing for affordable and quality healthcare. The speeches at today’s rally got the crowd fired up to spend the rest of the day talking to legislators.

“It’s a shame we have to come here from so many different cities to let folks know what they already should know,” Jose Gonzalez of Corpus Christi’s Driscoll Children’s Health Plan said. “It takes 300 people for them to understand that children need healthcare?”