At times our conversations and debates concerning public policy leave us "stuck" in abstractions and theoretical concerns. After all, most of us here have the luxury of conversation about what are, for millions of other people, matters of life and death, literally.
Just this week I received a comprehensive report from the Children's Defense Fund of Texas (CDF) on how Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) work or, in far too many cases, don't work in Texas ("In Harm's Way: True Stories of Uninsured Texas Children").
The format of CDF's report is brilliant.
Woven among the typical statistical analysis provided by such reports are the stories of real life people--men, women, children and families. These stories make the report "live."
Issues addressed include matters of recertification, income limits, delays in the process, impact of the value of owned vehicles, etc. Basically, the report educates us about what consumers of these insurance products already know all too well: they are not set up to serve the most in the best manner. Attepmts to contain costs by erecting barriers to useage can prove to be deadly.
The report is dedicated to the memory of Devante Johnson.
Here's his story as told by the CDF report:
Thirteen-year-old Devante Johnson had advanced kidney cancer and could not afford to be without health care coverage. But last year, that is exactly what happened, when Devante spent four desperate months uninsured while his mother tried to renew his Medicaid coverage.
For years, Devante and his two younger brothers were covered by Medicaid. Texas families who qualify for Medicaid or CHIP are required to renew their coverage every six months, and Devante's mother, Tamika, had tired to get a head start by sending in her paperwork two months before Medicaid was set to expire.
The application sat for six weeks until it was processed and transferred to CHIP, because an employee believed their family no longer qualified for Medicaid. At that point the paperwork got lost in the system. Tamika grew more and more desperate as she watched her son get worse. "I did everything I possibly could," Tamika said. "I would literally get off the phone in tears, crying because they [CHIP employees] frustrated me so much."
For four months, Devante went without health insurance as employees unsuccessfully attempted to reinstate his coverage. As a result, he could no longer receive regular treatment and had to rely on clinical trials for care. Meanwhile, his tumors grew. Time was running out.
It wasn't until a state representative intervened that Devante's coverage was immediately reinstated. Two days later, Devante was able to start a promising new treatment. But, it was too late.
Devante Johnson died on March 1, 2007.
The "bottom line" of the CDF report on Texas is very simple and straightforward. Every child in the state who is uninsured should be enrolled in either Medicaid or CHIP today. Making this policy decision is smart for children and for every Texas taxpayer.
Beyond being smart, such a strategy is the right, just and compassionate thing to do.
[Read and/or download the full report at: http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/