- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In his recent Op-Ed column in The Washington Times (“Austin to Obama, Congress: Limited government works,” Nation, July 29), Republican Gov. Rick Perry made a critical point, albeit not the one he probably intended. He rightly states that “families, entrepreneurs and individual citizens deserve the opportunity to strive and succeed.” Yet that, unfortunately, is not reality for the majority of Texans — particularly children — when it comes to accessing health care in our state.

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation — 5.5 million adults and 1.5 million children who do not have health insurance. Despite the accolades the state Legislature receives from Mr. Perry, Texas missed several opportunities to expand children’s access to health care during the last regular legislative session. Also, because legislators did not pass other important laws, they were required to return for a costly special session. Moreover, in addition to the fact that Texas ranks below the national average in businesses that offer health care coverage, our entrepreneurs and small-business owners — who are major drivers for our state’s economy — are themselves among the uninsured because of the exorbitant cost of providing insurance for their employees.

On the whole, the “huge dividends” of which the governor speaks do not measure up to reality. There are nearly 2 million small businesses in our state, and just 40,000 (2 percent) will benefit from the tax relief he touts as one of our Legislature’s accomplishments. Likewise, 31,000 kids who began high school in 2004 did not finish in 2008, on top of the 2,000 children who never entered high school from middle school. Texas also has one of the largest income gaps of any state; it has the fifth-biggest gap among the states between the wealthiest 20 percent of families and the middle 20 percent. These numbers just scratch the surface in showing the problems in our state, and they are unpersuasive evidence of the dividends to which the governor refers.

While I share Mr. Perry’s love for my state, we can and should do better for our families. I encourage him to extend leadership in addressing the high rate of uninsured Texans and to work toward achieving the dividends we deserve, especially for our smallest citizens — our children.

KEVIN C. MORIARTY

President and chief executive

Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas Inc.

San Antonio

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