June 28, 2007
Our youngest boy, Cooper, turns 12 next week. On the 4th of July. Yeah, he’s a certifiable Yankee Doodle Dandy.He wasn’t supposed to be born on the 4th. He showed up a little earlier than we had expected. It was a great surprise, and it’s made Independence Day that much more special over the last dozen years. In the early years, I was able to convince him that all of those fireworks and parades were for him. He’s too smart for that now.He’s a great kid and we’re very proud of him.
Dell Children’s Medical Center had its opening celebration this past week. It will be operated by the Seton Family of Hospitals. This new facility will be a tremendous asset for our region. Some of the benefits will be obvious. The new Medical Center will have 475,000 square feet, compared with its predecessor’s 150,000. There will be more beds, more operating rooms, four more pediatric intensive care units, and lots of facilities that didn’t exist in the old hospital.But other benefits won’t be as obvious. Those come in the form of care for thousands of uninsured kids whose parents can’t afford to keep their children healthy.
Over the past decade or so, I’ve seen up-close the really unbelievable need for healthcare among those who can’t afford literally life-and-death services. The truth is that when illness comes to part of our community, it affects – and threatens – all of us. Diseases don’t recognize lines on a map or tax brackets, and when infirmity takes kids out of school or adults out of the workplace, it hurts us all.Of course, Texas is dead last in the nation in the percentage of uninsured kids. About 25% of this relatively wealthy region is uninsured. That’s shocking.Last year, Seton provided over $200 million in charity care and community benefits. Frankly, I worry about what this region would have looked like – or felt like – without Seton’s contribution over the past decade.While this great new facility should cause us to celebrate, it should also cause us to commit to doing better – doing right – by the kids in this state. Yeah, the legislature did better in this budget for kids who need to take advantage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicaid. But we still have a budget surplus, and we missed a real opportunity to meet so much more need.
Even if we set aside the humanity of it, there’s a good economic reason to do this better.For every dollar the state puts up for the CHIP program, the federal government matches it with more than $2.50. That 250% is a pretty good return on investment right there.But then, the $3.50 gets spent on jobs and businesses that we already have. They’re called hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices. It multiplies into a roughly $7 economic impact as that money spreads through the economy.So our $1 investment yields a $7 return. Let’s see Google stock match that. The Seton facilities, including the new Children’s Medical Center, represent the second largest employer in Central Texas. We ought to be supporting this job creation. We ought to be supporting this economic development.But, most of all, we ought to be supporting our kids.