NEWS RELEASE
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
September 1, 2000
Contact: Brett Williams, (713) 236-0306
or Deece Eckstein, (512) 463-0113

Senator Ellis calls on State to fix Medicaid program
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-- Senator joins legislators in calling for improved Medicaid access --

AUSTIN -- State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today called upon the State of Texas to "quit defending the indefensible" and come up with a plan to improve Medicaid access for one million Texas children and low-income families. Ellis was joined by State Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) and other legislators.

"We have already made the policy decision to cover these children and provide the services they are entitled to under the law," said Ellis. "Now we learn that the bureaucrats charged with doing it have dropped the ball. Let's get on with it and fix it."

An August 14 decision by Federal Judge William Wayne Justice found that over one million Texas children have inadequate health care because the State does not do enough to publicize or provide access to the Medicaid program, either for children enrolled in the program or for children eligible but not enrolled. Justice ordered the State to submit a plan within 60 days to improve access to services. Texas Attorney General John Cornyn has vowed to appeal the order.

Ellis, the other legislators and advocacy groups urged the State to not appeal the order, and instead to prepare a plan to meet the requirements of the federal court order through increased outreach to Medicaid enrollees and eligibles, improved check up rates under Medicaid managed care, enhanced transportation to health care appointments, staffing the toll-free hotline for Medicaid, and improved case management.

Senator Ellis noted that many of the court's findings and recommendations are similar to those contained in reports to be issued by House and Senate human services committees.

Ellis also praised the commitment of community advocates who have brought this issue to the fore and noted that now is the time for Texas lawmakers to stand up for Texas children. "Texas legislators should not walk away from their responsibility to ensure the health of Texas families. Either we are covering these children and families or we are not. If we are, then let's make a commitment to get these children the services they need."

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