02-19-2017  8:43 am      •     

Another election season is coming to a close, and once again, candidates for local and state offices across the country have made all kinds of promises about what they'll do for us if we give them our votes. But once they are in office, will we hold them accountable for keeping all these promises?
We all need to be listening very carefully to what our politicians say they will do for children and families, and we then need to watch very carefully to make sure their actions match their words. The Children's Defense Fund recently received an update from our Texas office about the ways children in their state who have been promised health care coverage are continuing to be let down. It's a story that's being repeated across the country.
The problems in Texas recently made the front page of the Houston Chronicle with one boy's especially troubling story. Thirteen-year-old Devante Johnson has advanced kidney cancer, so it's clear he can't afford to go without health care coverage. As state Rep. Sylvester Turner told the Chronicle, "We're not talking about a cold or some stomach ailment. This one was literally life or death, where every single day is critical for this kid." But earlier this year, Devante spent four desperate months without health insurance because of bureaucratic mix-ups.
Until April, Devante and his two younger brothers were covered by Medicaid. Texas families who qualify for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program are required to renew their coverage every six months, and Devante's mother had tried to get a head start by sending in her paperwork early before their family's April 30 expiration deadline. But their application first sat for six weeks before being processed and then was transferred to the agency in charge of the Children's Health Insurance Program because an employee believed their family no longer qualified for Medicaid. At that point, the paperwork was lost in the system.
Devante's mother grew more and more desperate as attempts to track it down and reinstate his coverage went unanswered while she watched Devante getting worse. His doctors at Texas Children's Hospital continued to care for him after he lost his health coverage, but a new treatment option at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center seemed to be his best chance — and Devante couldn't be admitted to that program without insurance.
It wasn't until Turner's office got involved in August that Devante's coverage was reinstated. Two days later, Devante was able to start the new treatment, and right now his doctors are optimistic. But the dangerous delay in his care could have been avoided. No child should have to wait four months while his or her tumors grow. Devante's case may sound extreme, but he is still far from alone.
Our Texas office has helped a number of other families trying to navigate receiving health coverage for their children and recently worked with a mother whose teenage son has serious mental health needs and who had been trying for months to apply for the Children's Health Insurance Program without success. The mother was rationing her son's medications, cutting pills in half, until the fund was able to get his Children's Health Insurance Program coverage activated by appealing to the highest levels of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. She sent Barbara Best, executive director of the Texas Children Defense Fund, the following letter:
"If [you and your staff] had not intervened in my case my son would be dead by now. … This isn't just an issue of children being inconvenienced and having to wait a little longer for health coverage. This is a matter of life and death for many Texas children.
"This is a matter of the parents having to look at themselves each day and feeling like they have failed their children. They see them suffering but cannot do anything to help.... The saddest fact of all is that it shouldn't be that way; we live in a country where our children shouldn't have to suffer. The fact that we have a program in place, but children are being unjustly denied benefits should boil every Texan's blood."
This Texas parent was writing about her particular experience, but the fact that more than 9 million children are uninsured across our country and millions more are underinsured or having problems receiving the coverage for which they are eligible should boil every American's blood. If we could afford trillions in tax breaks for the wealthy, we can afford the far fewer billions needed to build healthy and educated children. Please join our campaign to get prenatal, health, and mental health care to every child in 2007. And insist that everyone elected to represent you and your family this November makes this not just a promise, but a priority.

Marian Wright Edelman is president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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