By Iliana Flores-Dumond
Texas has the highest rate of uninsured children in the country.
Health serves as the basis for children to learn, play, and thrive. Yet, a significant number of children in Texas lose out on adequate health services due to poverty, lack of education, and lack of access. Health is not as simple as physical well-being, but instead includes mental and social well-being as factors that must be met for children to be considered healthy. We must accept that positive “health” is more than just physical well-being, and that it is not merely a goal, but a fundamental right for children.
Not only is healthcare availability critical, but access to quality healthcare that meets a variety of needs is crucial to creating a balanced healthcare system for children. There was some effort this legislative session to address issues related to children’s healthcare ranging from mental health care to post-partum coverage. SB 113 sought to expand access to on-campus mental health services for students and would have allowed school districts to enroll as health care providers through Medicaid, making them eligible for reimbursement. This would provide crucial mental health services to hundreds of Texas children. HB 1501 would have extended SNAP benefits to eligible college students, ensuring students can access groceries and other necessary goods. Yet another example is HB 12, which recently passed the House and would expand post-partum care by extending the time that mothers qualify for Medicaid from only 60 days to 12 months. This bill allows new mothers to take care of themselves and their own health, and in turn provide the best possible care for their children.
While the examples above illustrate positive gains for children’s health, SB 113 and HB 1501 have been pending in committee for most of the session. Without more support for these bills in the legislature, it’s likely that these bills won’t pass this session. Simultaneously bills like SB 14, which has made it through the Senate, and is scheduled to be heard in the House this week, would take Texas several steps backward in terms of children’s healthcare. SB 14 would ban access to gender-affirming care for youth, limiting access to life-changing healthcare procedures that are crucial to the well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. This bill would harm LGBTQ+ youth across the state, increasing the chances of depression and suicide, homelessness, and displacement to other states where they can receive care.
All children deserve to have the best possible and most affordable health care services the state can provide.
All children deserve to have the best possible and most affordable health care services the state can provide. Bills like SB14 directly harm LGBTQ+ children and leave hundreds of Texas children without the care they need. Instead, Texas could take a step forward in healthcare access by prioritizing bills like HB12 and SB113 that make healthcare more accessible and more affordable for Texas children. The next generation of Texans needs the state to put aside political divides, and work toward the common goal of keeping children happy, healthy, and safe.
There are several ways that you can influence the state of children’s health care in Texas.
- Educate yourself on Medicaid eligibility and enrollment: The majority of participants and beneficiaries in the Medicaid program are children, but a significant portion of eligible children do not receive benefits because their parents are not enrolled. Use this link to find out more about Medicaid, and what you can do to take action!
- Advocate for policies at the Legislature: Your representatives will be voting on crucial bills like those mentioned above that will have a huge impact on children’s healthcare. Call or email their office or come to the Capitol and make your voice heard! See here for tools to make reaching out to your representative regarding HB 12 quick and easy.
The lives of children across the state are shaped by barriers to healthcare access. All youth deserve to live a healthy, happy life with access to the services and care they need to thrive. It’s time for Texas to recognize and fulfill children’s fundamental right to access quality, comprehensive, and affordable healthcare.
Youth Civic Education and Engagement Intern, Children’s Defense Fund – Texas