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No Child Left Behind: Texas Style

States ranked by percent of children without health insurance, from worst to best, based on Kids Count report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation:

1. Texas, 22 percent;
2. New Mexico, 21 percent;
3. (tie) Arizona and Louisiana, 18 percent;
5. (tie) Montana and Nevada, 17 percent;
7. (tie) California, Florida, Idaho and Oklahoma, 16 percent;
11. Alaska, 15 percent;
12. Colorado, 14 percent;
13. (tie) South Carolina and Wyoming, 13 percent;
15. (tie) Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Oregon, 12 percent;
19. (tie) Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Washington, 11 percent;
26. (tie) Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota and West Virginia, 10 percent;
31. (tie) Alabama, Hawaii, Maryland, Ohio and South Dakota, 9 percent;
36. (tie) Massachusetts, Michigan and Nebraska, 8 percent;
39. (tie) Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont, 7 percent;
47. (tie) Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin, 6 percent.
50. Rhode Island, 5 percent.

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation

AUSTIN -- Texas again ranks worst in the nation with the highest percentage of uninsured children and near worst in teen pregnancy and high school dropout rates, according to new child poverty data released today.

The 2003 Kids Count Data Book compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore shows Texas lagging behind most other states in a range of indicators of child welfare.

Texas ranks 50th with 22 percent of its children lacking health insurance compared with 12 percent nationally.

"Texas already has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation," said F. Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which participates with a Texas Kids Count program.

"As it stands, the 2004-2005 state budget will mean that even more poor children, and more children in low-income families, will go uninsured," he said.

This spring, legislators cut nearly $10 billion from the upcoming state budget without raising taxes. But advocates for children, the elderly and disabled complained that the cuts were made at the expense of needy Texans.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has estimated a number of changes -- such as assets tests and a 90-day waiting period -- in the Children's Health Insurance Program will cut enrollments by 167,000 by 2005, or about one-third.

Other changes are expected to halt the future growth of Medicaid rolls by several hundreds of thousands of children.

But some state Republicans have questioned why so many children are uninsured and whether the state should be responsible.

"I think it's mainly, basically, a choice of the parents not to purchase the insurance," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston. "The notion that the government is the responsible party -- it's the parent that's the responsible party."

Heflin said he believes a lot of the children who will lose benefits under CHIP could be covered by employer health plans instead.

Dayna Finet, director of Texas Kids Count, said she believes otherwise.

"It's more typical that people employed in lower-wage jobs, those are among the least likely people in the labor force to have health insurance as a benefit," she said.

"As premiums have inflated," she added, "that's squeezing employers. Even employers who provide health insurance are dropping dependent coverage or requiring the employee to pick up dependent coverage themselves."

The latest Texas Kids Count data reflect averages available from U.S. Census Data for 1999, 2000 and 2001.

It shows Texas ranking best -- ninth in the nation and better than the national average -- in infant mortality rates. Texas had a rate of 5.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The national average was 6.9 deaths per 1,000 births.

Yet in other measures of child well-being, Texas continued to fall short, according to the data book.

The state's child poverty rank slipped markedly, from 36th a year ago to 44th highest in the nation in the new report. In the latest count, Texas had 22 percent of children living below poverty level, compared with 17 percent nationally.

Teen pregnancy rates remain high for 15- to 17-year-olds as well. Texas ranked 49th in the nation, with 42 such births per 1,000 compared with a national teen birth rate of 27 per 1,000.

High school dropout rates in Texas rank 47th highest, with 13 percent of teens ages 16 to 19 counted as dropouts compared to 9 percent nationally.

— Polly Ross Hughes
Texas ranked at bottom in insuring kids
Houston Chronicle
June 11, 2003


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