en español: El Innovador de Texas
Insurance cuts have human cost
In health and human services, like education, Texas is abdicating its responsibilities. Ignoring state challenges is creating local crises.
At the end of the last regular session, laws were signed that left Texas dead last among states in the percentage of children who have health insurance. And due to state budget cuts in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Texas is leaving $1.6 billion on the table in federal funds.
Just since last September, 119,000 children have been dropped from CHIP. That’s a 23 percent drop in six months. That’s unconscionable.
You don’t make the reductions that were made without a human cost. You know and I know that these children don’t simply disappear. They turn up in local emergency rooms. We effectively have taken a challenge for the state and created a crisis for the cities.
My bottom line and the true fiscal conservative’s bottom line— I’d rather spend $72 a month insuring a child and $500 immunizing a child for a lifetime, than $6,700 for one hospital stay for that child.
I estimate that there are $469.3 million that could be distributed by budget execution now and another $113.4 million that could be appropriated in special session to fully restore CHIP and address other severe health care cuts.
If nothing is done, thousands more will begin falling off the CHIP rolls when a new system of means testing begins. Under new guidelines that will likely become the law of the land next month, any family with assets of more than $5,000 will be kicked out of the program.
That’s not means testing, that’s mean testing.
I am not advocating big government solutions to intractable problems. Government cannot be all things to all people. The failures of the past have demonstrated this conclusively.
But, no state can be great if it casts aside its weakest members. No state can ignore the cries of the frailest voices among its citizens. No Texan in need should be consigned to the dustbin of convenience and political expediency.
For Texas government the message of the 21st Century is crystal clear. We must be leaner. We must not be meaner.
If the promise of the future is built on the success of our children, we must do everything in our power to ensure that success.
Texas is great, but we can do better.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Texans finding flavors
The low-carbohydrate diet craze has America’s food companies looking for ways to make low-carb versions of all sorts of food. One of the biggest challenges in that quest is making sure the foods still taste good.
Mian N. Riaz, head of the Extrusion Technology Program at Texas A&M University’s Food Protein Research and Development Center, is one researcher helping keep low-carb meals high in flavor.
Riaz said most food companies are trying to add protein to their food items to reduce carbohydrates. The major challenge in developing this kind of food, he said, is keeping texture and flavor.
“By adding protein to these snacks, the texture gets very hard and sometimes it is not chewable,” Riaz said.
The Texas A&M program is working on several different snack and protein products, including texturized vegetable protein and meat analog, or meat substitute made from soybeans.
Riaz said he thinks the demand for foods that fit into a low-carb diet will be around for some time. But after that, foodophiles will find a new focus.
“We used to have low-salt foods, then no-fat or low-fat foods and now low-carb,” he said.
For more information, contact Mian N. Riaz,
Power to the kids
A special camp at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, is helping prepare children from low-income families for a state assessment test.
In summer 2003, Lamar University’s Camp Empowerment tutored 120 students for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Camp Empowerment looked at ways to help kids from lower-income areas with their schoolwork, said Elton Payne, manager of Lamar’s Community Outreach program.
“The focus was mainly on kids from the West Oakland/Pear Orchard Community, which is a designated low-income, underserved community [by the Federal government],” Payne said.
Originally, organizers planned to host 70 kids, but due to the response, Camp Empowerment had 120 students in its six-week course, Payne said.
“Each student was given a pre-program assessment,” he said. “More than 60 percent of the kids showed improvement in reading and math skills.”
For their efforts, Lamar, along with partners Antioch Missionary Baptist Church and the Beaumont Independent School District, received the 2003 Award of Excellence from the Texas Association for Community Service and Continuing Education.
Payne said he hopes Antioch will pick up Camp Empowerment again this year but added that he’s not sure of its future.
For more information, contact Elton Payne,
Grad program, no degree
Students in a special graduate program at the University of Texas in Austin don’t earn degrees. Instead, they contribute to the community as they develop leadership and accountability skills.
Dr. Rick Cherwitz, founder of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) program, said the program’s goal is to empower students to “own” their education and make informed choices about how to use their expertise. Through graduate-level courses, internships and workshops, the program, part of which recently was renamed Professional Development and Community Engagement, educates “citizen scholars,” Cherwitz said.
Students must work toward a degree in a specific discipline and take IE classes along with their regular graduate classes. There is no IE degree, but students gain experiences that contribute to society, according to Cherwitz.
In 2002-2003, IE students collaborated with Seton Healthcare Network in Austin. Students worked with Seton administrators to help Seton find ways to discourage patients from visiting emergency rooms (ER) unnecessarily, which can drive up health care costs. The students offered Seton specific strategies for educating its patients, including providing a kit with information and medication for illnesses that most often bring people to the ER.
In 2003-2004, a new pre-graduate school internship directed by Cherwitz expanded IE to undergraduates. Since the IE program began in 1997, more than 3,000 students in 90 academic disciplines have participated, Cherwitz said.
“Its goal is to harness and integrate the vast intellectual assets of the university as a lever for social good,” said Cherwitz.
For more information, contact Dr. Rick Cherwitz,
email@example.com, 512-471-1939, or visit
Airport parking reservations
With tightened security and unavoidable delays, flying just isn’t as much fun these days. But some companies are helping harried flyers avoid a little of the hassle by offering reservations for parking spaces.
Firms such as The Parking Spot and PreFlight Airport Parking, both of which operate off-site parking lots at multiple airports, allow customers to book a place for their car via the Internet. Another firm, AirportParkingReservation.com, offers reservations for off-site parking lots run by a variety of operators around the nation. It’s a convenience that can take at least one worry off the mind of a traveler who’s running late for a flight, particularly during peak travel periods such as holidays.
Travelers seem to be voting for the idea with their wallets. AirportParkingReservation.com reports that its business is doubling each year. And airports themselves, including Oakland International Airport in Oakland, Calif., and Boston’s Logan International Airport, are considering offering a similar service for on-site parking.
Teachers at the Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo, N.Y., no longer take attendance. Students come to class, but teachers don’t call roll. Students present specially designed identification tags at computer kiosks in the hallways.
The system, designed by intuitek, a Buffalo-based systems integration and product design company, uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. RFID uses microchips to store personal information about students on cards the students carry.
Unlike traditional card-and-reader technology, like bar codes, RFID doesn’t require the student to swipe the card. The student presents the card within a certain proximity of the kiosk in order for the kiosk to read it, usually anywhere from four to 30 inches. The computer then sends a report to the front office and to teachers.
Some privacy experts, such as Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, expressed concern that the technology could allow students’ privacy to be breached by computer hackers, law-enforcement officials or school authorities. Intuitek President David Straitiff said that while privacy is an important consideration, students are only monitored within range of the kiosks.
Straitliff said the technology helps give teachers more time to concentrate on teaching.
For more information, contact Greg Norton,
Soybeans in the walls
Homeowners who want to save up to 50 percent on their utility bills are using soybean oil in their walls.
Illinois manufacturer Bio-Based Systems introduced BioBase 501 in Houston in 2003. The soybean-based polyurethane produces a spray-in-place insulation that creates a semi-rigid foam that penetrates tiny crevasses, expanding to 100 times its original liquid size. The lightweight foam provides a sealed thermal envelope that prevents outside air from coming inside—a major cause of heat and air conditioning loss in homes.
BioBase sales manager Matt Costner estimates that between 300 and 500 builders use the solution, which is environmentally friendly and inexpensive to install.
“Because BioBase spray foam insulation replaces petroleum products with cheaper soybean oil, it is substantially cheaper than other spray foam products,” Costner said. “This cost savings allows the consumer to install the same quality insulation system for less.”
Houston-based homebuilder David Powers Homes signed a contract to use BioBase 501 in all its new homes.
For more information, contact Matt Costner,
Phones and bones
People who are hard of hearing but want to use a cell phone may get some help from Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. The company is manufacturing the TS41 phone, which uses the bones in the user’s head to conduct the sound directly into the inner ear. Anyone who uses a cell phone in noisy places could benefit from the device, the company says.
While most cell phones transmit sound that hits the outer eardrum, the TS41 phone transmits the sound through vibrations moving through the skull to the inner ear.
Users may hold the handset to the top or back of the head, next to the cheekbone or jaw and when they close their left ear, they can hear the call internally on the left side. Plugging the ear helps the listener because it prevents area noise, such as loud traffic on busy streets, from drowning out the sounds that are conducted through the bone.
Sanyo is supplying the mobile phone to the Tu-Ka cell phone group, which sells the phone only in Japan. No Web sites in English exist yet, and no English-speaking salespersons are available in the U.S
For more information, contact Sanyo,
Visitors to San Antonio’s SeaWorld theme park will be able to enter the park a little easier in 2004 thanks to a new scanning system that reads patrons’ hands.
The park will create a three-dimensional image of the hands of passport members, or guests who pay a certain amount for unlimited admissions to the park each year. When guests enter the park, they wave their hands in front of a scanner, which lets visitors through the gate so they don’t have to wait in line.
For more information, contact Andy Fichthorn,
SeaWorld San Antonio, 800-700-7786
Car owners may soon be calling their bankers instead of their mechanics when their cars don’t start. A new device by Payment Protection Systems (PPS), based in Temecula, Calif., shuts off cars if buyers don’t make their payments. PPS estimates it has sold about 90,000 systems, called On Time, which more than 400 used-car dealerships use. Each system costs between $220 to $260.
For more information, contact PPS,
A German study shows that if you don’t snooze, you lose. Scientists at the University of Luebeck found that volunteers who regularly got eight hours of sleep a night were three times more likely to figure out a simple math problem than sleep-deprived participants. The scientists said the study is considered to be the first hard evidence linking creativity and problem-solving to adequate sleep.
For more information, contact Jan Born,
Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Ann Holdsworth, Magdalena Hamner, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, Pam Wagner and Bruce Wright