Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn sent a letter to state Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, requesting that he rescind a means test in the state Children's Health Insurance Program, saying the test will jeopardize access to care for poor families. The test went into effect Tuesday and factors in part of "additional assets" when deciding CHIP eligibility. In the letter, Strayhorn says families with $5,000 in savings could be disqualified. She said $934.3 million in unallocated state funds could be used to restore healthcare cuts made to offset a budget shortfall last year. Strayhorn also alleged that the governor shifted the salaries of four employees in his mansion to another agency in order to reflect a $300,000 budget savings.
Meanwhile, earlier in the week the state's Legislative Budget Board approved $591 million to be used for the state Health and Human Services Commission's programs for the poor. The allocation of the funds, backed by Perry, will give the state access to an additional $860 million in federal matching money, for a total of $1.5 billion in new healthcare spending, a commission spokesman said. Of that money, $300 million will go to Medicaid and CHIP, including $53.2 million to maintain Medicaid reimbursement rates for doctors, the spokesman said. -- by Joseph Mantone