As we watched the recent legislature debate dealing with the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), it seems like it was all on the terms of those who want to aggressively expand the program.
While we at TCR believe we need to help ensure that poor children have access to medical care, are there not some other ideas we should be considering in Texas? Remember, the states are supposed to be the laboratories of democracy.
Recent Democratic proposals in Washington are seeking to radically expand the eligibility for SCHIP at four times the poverty level so a family of five with income of $110,000 or less would be eligible. You know who would pay for it and we don't need an universal health care agenda on the installment plan.
So what to do? The Center for Health Transformation has been doing pioneering work in this area. They have identified four cornerstones to transform health care in America:
First, we must get information technology into the hands of health care providers.
Second, we must accelerate our efforts to create common measures to evaluate performance and cost. Today, it is nearly impossible to determine in any reliable way who delivers the best quality care and at what cost.
Third, we must widely distribute this information to consumers. The health care system keeps consumers in the dark about the cost and quality of the care they receive or provides deceptive, inaccurate information which makes it hard to make an intelligent choice as a consumer. MyFloridaRX.com has proven to be valuable for consumers (some call it "Health Travelocity", so one can compare prescription drug prices.)
Fourth, we must change the way we pay for care. In our current system, hospitals and providers that deliver better care are reimbursed, for the most part, at the exact same rate as those who provide poorer care. That is like buying a new Cadillac for the same price as you would for a used Yugo.
In Texas, we need to implement as many of the cornerstones as we can and also make it easier for individuals to purchase health insurance by ending unnecessary mandates, taxes, and regulatory costs and by promoting price competition, insuring portability, individual ownership and encourage a focus on good health.
We also need to create a pilot program to provide subsidies for Health Savings Accounts for those on SCHIP and state Medicaid to encourage recipients to be good medical services shoppers. If successful, we should then implement it statewide and make Texas an "HSA State."
The national debate about health care is on and conservatives need to engage because our ideas can work.
CLOUT Suit To Control Runaway
State Spending Is On Again
Last week the Third Court of Appeals of Texas unleashed Edd Hendee and CLOUT to pursue their suit against the State of Texas to enforce the constitutional limit on spending.
Edd Hendee's legal team (including your editor) has filed a First Amended Suit (copy available here) seeking an injunction against unconstitutional spending among other things.
The case is set for a hearing in August on a temporary injunction in a Travis County District Court.
Hendee so far has fully established the right for taxpayers to sue to stop unconstitutional spending over the objections of the Attorney General's legal team.
You can help out in its effort by going to their website and contributing to this fine organization fighting for us.
By Gina Parker Ford, Guest Columnist
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel stated, "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." In the case of the imprisoned former border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, now is our time to protest.
Despite an outcry from Republicans and Democrats, the White House continues to remain mute on pardoning these agents after they were sentenced to 11 and 12 year federal prison terms. As Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) pointedly remarked, "The Ramos and Compean conviction has been the greatest misjustice that I have seen, and I have seen a lot."
The two agents were convicted in January after shooting a drug smuggler along the border near El Paso, Texas. The drug smuggler was injured in the shooting, but quickly fled back across the border to a waiting van. Upon further investigation, the agents found nearly 750 pounds of marijuana in his van, which as Representative Rohrabacher further noted, "more than a million dollars in illegal drugs were stopped from being sold to our children."
Although both agents testified in court that the smuggler was armed and that they were in fear of their lives after a high speed chase, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton was able to beguile himself and the jury into believing the illegal drug smuggler. Yes, Sutton gave the smuggler full immunity for his illegal activities in exchange for the smuggler's testimony against the agents. This action of U.S. Attorney Sutton, however, took a concerted effort on his part to find the smuggler in Mexico. After tracking him down, Sutton not only let the smuggler off the hook for the drugs, but also he provided the smuggler with an all access pass into the United States for interviews by attorneys.
The free pass granted to the smuggler may sound harmless enough, but on one of the smuggler's trips across the border for interviews, the smuggler once again smuggled illegal drugs. This little tid-bit of information was not released during the trial of the Border Patrol agents, however, as it might taint the smuggler's testimony. Furthermore, the judge decided to place a gag order on all parties because the smuggler had stated that he and his friends considered hosting a "hunting party" to shoot Border Patrol agents!
CNN Correspondent Lou Dobbs correctly assessed the service and the punishment of Agents Ramos and Compean when he stated: "The two Border Patrol agents received excessive sentence by any reasonable standard of justice. The agents were serving their nation in a war zone along our southern border." From drugs to terrorists, our porous northern and southern borders are one of our greatest security threats! So, just what message is the U.S. Department of Justice sending to the men and women who serve along the border daily?
T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council has correctly pointed out: "they (Ramos and Compean) committed no crime. They were simply defending themselves against an armed drug smuggler." From February 1, 2005 to June 30, 2007, there were 1,982 incidents in which Border Patrol agents were assaulted. Can any of the Border Patrol agents now truly believe that they can defend themselves and our nation without the possibility of going to prison for over a decade?
Even though the two agents are now awaiting their appeals behind bars, Congress has heard the cries of the people. On July 25th, the House voted by voice to block the Bureau of Prisons from keeping the agents in prison. Representative Ted Poe, R-Texas explained, "What this does is release these two individuals while the appeal goes on," as it blocks the Bureau from spending any money to incarcerate them. The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing last week to investigate further this atrocious sentence. The Committee Chair, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as well as Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) not only grilled U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, but also committed to writing President Bush to request his commutation of the agents' sentences.
Additionally, Presidential hopeful Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has written H.R. 563, which would vacate the sentences of both agents. The bill currently has 102 co-sponsors and is awaiting further review by the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.
Although our protests are being heard, we cannot give up until justice prevails. Keep calling your representatives in Washington, and keep asking President Bush to commute the sentences of these two agents. Agents Ramos and Compean were protecting and serving their country; we must not sit idly by as they needlessly suffer in prison. Edmund Burke stated it best: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
You can contact your Congressman: www.house.gov/writerep and contact President Bush: www.whitehouse.gov/contact
COMING (Friday, August 17, 2007 at 8 pm) on Channel 8 PBS in Houston, Texas - The Connection - Red, White & Blue, featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal commentator David Jones with a media roundtable and on August 31, 2007 with a special surprise guest.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who recently completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his tenth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last six years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.