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October 18, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - The Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Uninsured held its first meeting today, October 18, 1999, in the Lt. Governor's Committee room in the Texas State Capitol. The group was created by Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 6 during the 76th Regular Legislative Session earlier this year. The group is charged with examining the problem of Texans who lack health insurance, reviewing demographic trends relating to the uninsured population, and examining the state's programs, laws, and systems which address the lack of affordable health coverage. The Task Force will develop a market-based improvement plan to ensure that Texans have access to affordable health care coverage.

The nine member panel consists of three senators appointed by Lt. Governor Rick Perry, three House members appointed by Speaker Pete Laney and three public members appointed by the governor. Senator Chris Harris of Arlington was elected to serve as chair of the committee. The other senators are David Bernsen of Beaumont, and Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso. State representatives include Bob Glaze of Gilmer, Garnet Coleman of Houston, and Craig Eiland of Galveston. Public members include Nancy Wilson Dickey, M.D., of College Station, John C. Goodman of Dallas, and Boone Powell, Jr. of Dallas.

The task force members look forward to educating each other and discussing a number of related issues. Limited federal funds, the need of additional funding to help the uninsured, the private sector's involvement in health care, and health care in rural areas are some of the issues they will be examining. The group sees the importance of raising the poverty level so more families have access to health plans like Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP), a plan approved by the 76th Legislature to provide coverage for about half a million Texas children. The members will also investigate methods by which an employee could have continuity of care, keeping the same plan when changing jobs; and how to keep members of a family under the same plan. During the meeting, Harris pointed out that 24.5 percent of Texans lack any kind of health insurance. These uninsured Texans usually hold off until the last moment before rushing to emergency rooms, risking their lives and increasing the cost of the care provided in the process.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Uninsured will announce its future meeting locations and times. The group will present its findings in the form of a report to be presented to the 77th Legislature which will convene in January 2001.

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