LEHRER: Governor, did Vice President — are the vice president’s figures correct about Texas?
BUSH: Well, first of all, let me say, he’s not for a government- run health care system. I thought that’s exactly what he and Mrs. Clinton and them fought for in 1993, was a government-run health care system. It was fortunately stopped in its tracks.
Secondly, we spend $4.7 billion a year on the uninsured in the state of Texas. Our rate of uninsured, the percentage of uninsured, in Texas has gone down while the percentage of uninsured in America has gone up.
Our CHIPs program got a late start because our government meets only four months out of every two years, Mr. Vice President. May come for a shock for somebody’s been in Washington for so long, but actually limited government can work in the second largest state in the Union, and therefore Congress passes the bill after our session in 1970 — ’97 ended. We passed the enabling legislation in ’99. We’ve signed up over 110,000 children to the CHIPs program for comparable states our size. We’re signing them up fast as any other state.
And I — you can quote all the numbers you want, but I’m telling you, we care about our people in Texas, we spend a lot of money to make sure people get health care in the state of Texas, and we’re doing a better job than they are at the national level for reducing uninsured.
LEHRER: Is he right?
GORE: Well, I don’t know about the — all these percentages that he throws out. But I do know that the — I speculate that the reason why he didn’t answer your question directly as to whether my numbers were right, the facts were right, about Texas ranking dead last in families with health insurance and 49th out of 50 for both children and women, is because those facts are correct.
And as for why it happened, I’m no expert on the Texas procedures. But what my friends there tell me is that the governor opposed a measure put forward by Democrats in the legislature to expand the number of children that would be covered, and instead directed the money toward a tax cut, a significant part of which went to wealthy interests. He declared the need for a new tax cut for the oil companies in Texas an emergency need. And so the money was taken away from the CHIP program.
There’s a — you don’t have to take my word for this. There is now a federal judge’s opinion about the current management of this program, ordering the state of Texas to do some — and you should read that judge’s language about this.
They’re — I believe there are 1.4 million children in Texas who do not have health insurance, 600,000 of whom — and maybe some of those have since gotten it, but as of a year ago, 600,000 of them were actually eligible for it but they couldn’t sign up for it because of the barriers that they had to surmount.
LEHRER: Let’s let the governor respond to that.
BUSH: Well, I …
LEHRER: Are those numbers correct? Are his charges correct?
BUSH: If he’s trying to allege that I’m a hard-hearted person and I don’t care about children, he’s absolutely wrong. We spend $4.7 billion a year in the state of Texas for uninsured people, and they get health care. Now, it’s not the most efficient way to get people health care.