en español: El Innovador de Texas
Too Many Uninsured Texans
As Texas Comptroller, I am charged with supervising and managing all of the state’s fiscal concerns. The lack of adequate and affordable health care in Texas is a critical burden that affects all of us—families, taxpayers, businesses, health care providers, state and local governments, and our most precious resource, our children.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas has the highest share of uninsured persons of any state. Based on the most recent data available, about one in four Texans lacked health insurance at some point. The U.S. average for the same period was more than one in six Americans. In fact, every major metropolitan area in Texas exceeds the U.S. average.
The Laredo and El Paso metropolitan statistical areas had the state’s highest share of uninsured residents, at 36 percent and 33 percent, respectively. Brownsville-Harlingen-San Benito had 32 percent uninsured; Corpus Christi, 28 percent; and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, 28 percent.
Among the largest metropolitan areas, Houston led with almost 28 percent of its residents lacking health insurance. In Dallas, the uninsured rate was 25 percent; in San Antonio, 24 percent; and in Fort Worth-Arlington, 24 percent. Austin had the lowest share among largest cities, at 18 percent, but that still exceeded the national average.
The sheer number of uninsured Texans ultimately makes health care less affordable for Texas employers and individuals alike. Much of the costs involved in providing health care to the uninsured ultimately are shifted to those who have health insurance—and to Texas taxpayers.
I have previously suggested ways in which the federal and state governments could help more Texans afford health insurance. Some of these have been enacted, such as a program that allows small businesses to form cooperatives to purchase affordable employee health insurance.
I firmly believe that the next step is to fully restore the cuts made in 2003 to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). As of May 2005, 180,450 children have been dropped from CHIP. That is a 35.6 percent drop. These children don’t simply disappear; they turn up in local emergency rooms.
Recently, the Legislature voted to restore dental, vision, mental health and hospice benefits to CHIP. That is a good step, but we must restore the eligibility requirements that will make these benefits available to more Texas children.
Tackling the health insurance problem will require innovative ideas and actions. This is a challenge for all Texans. Texas is great, but we can do better.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
A flying car—sort of
While flying cars were staples of old-time science fiction, they simply haven’t gotten off the ground in real life. Until now.
Carter Aviation Technologies’ “Cartercopter” isn’t really a flying car. It’s essentially a re-imagining of an early step in the evolution of the helicopter, the autogyro—an aircraft that derives lift from a rotor rather than a wing.
According to Wichita Falls-based Carter Aviation, the Cartercopter is an extraordinarily versatile personal vehicle that can fly faster than a helicopter and more safely. The craft, which resembles a cross between a helicopter and a tiny, futuristic jet, cannot hover as a helicopter can, but is capable of vertical takeoff and landing, freeing it from the need for landing strips.
A rear-mounted “pusher” propeller provides motive force for the Cartercopter. The overhead rotor is powered for takeoff, like a helicopter’s, and provides lift in an unpowered mode during flight. In theory, should the vehicle lose engine power in flight, the rotor will allow the craft to float down to a soft landing.
The Cartercopter is only a prototype. Carter Aviation expects to offer the craft as a kit before a manufactured version becomes available.
Athletes—especially football players—soldiers and others have a new diagnostic tool to check for mild concussions.
Called DETECT, for Display Enhanced Testing for Concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), the device fits on a person’s head, blocking out light and sound and allowing the test to run in about seven minutes. Most tests for mTBI take two hours in total silence, according to Megan McRainey, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) spokeswoman.
Researchers at Georgia Tech’s Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Emory University’s Emergency Medicine Research Center developed the device, which uses a laptop computer and a controller to record the user’s responses.
Individuals suffering from a mTBI will normally have trouble responding to certain stimuli, depending on which area of the brain is injured. The DETECT device presents the user with various neuropsychological tests and measures the speed and accuracy of responses.
If the user takes too long to respond, or gives an incorrect answer, the device indicates an injury occurred.
“If you‘re not impaired in any way, then it‘s not a hard test to take,” McRainey said.
Researchers have performed tests under laboratory conditions and in an emergency room, and the Georgia Tech football team plans to use it next season, McRainey said.
The device will not be commercially available until at least 2008.
For more information, contact Megan McRainey,
Power up, up and away
Bryan Roberts, a professor of engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, designed a flying electric generator (FEG) that can soar 15,000 feet in the sky and deliver electricity to the ground through a cable.
High-altitude winds, which are stronger and more persistent than surface-level winds, could generate enough power to supply the world’s energy needs, according to Sky WindPower, a San Diego, Calif.-based company trying to commercialize the FEG.
A group of 600 FEGs would produce about three times the amount of energy as the United States’ most productive nuclear facility, according to Sky WindPower. The company estimates 43 of these FEG groups would generate the same amount of electrical power produced in the United States in 2003.
Roberts conducted a successful test at low altitudes and plans to test a larger FEG at higher altitudes by 2007.
For more information, contact David Shepard,
Sky WindPower Corp., firstname.lastname@example.org
Shot helps kick habit
A monthly injection may help recovering alcoholics stay on the road to recovery. The drug, naltrexone, is already available in pill form, but the injectable form is time-released and reduces the chances of missing or skipping a treatment when the same drug is given as a daily pill, according to a study by Massachusetts-based Alkermes Inc.
The study found that during six months of treatment, patients tolerated the injectable drug well, and the drug reduced heavy drinking by 50 percent among patients seeking help for alcoholism.
More than 17 million people, or nearly 9 percent of the U.S. population, were classified as alcohol dependent in 2002, according to the National Institutes of Health. Although the pill form is available, the study cited problems in getting patients to take an oral dose of naltrexone every day. The company filed for government approval to market the injection, known as Vivitrex.
For more information, contact Dr. Elliot Ehrich,
vice president of Medical Affairs at Alkermes, 617-494-0171
Extension cord cars
With a few modifications, hybrid cars could save drivers a lot more money and the Earth a lot more pollutants, according to a coalition of entrepreneurs, engineers and environmentalists. The California Cars Initiative advocates “plug in” hybrids (PHEVs).
With a PHEV, a hybrid owner could plug his or her car into an electrical outlet to charge it. That could give drivers an extra 30 to 60 miles of gas-free driving. Since the average trip is about 35 miles, only about five fill-ups a year would be necessary, according to Andrew Frank, a professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at the University of California, Davis.
Frank says a PHEV has at least twice the fuel economy of a conventional car or truck. His team built seven vehicles to prove the point. A PHEV would cost 10 to 15 percent more than a traditional vehicle, he said.
“[PHEVs] would be manufactured now if the car companies would be willing to make the investment,” Frank said. “The price will come down as the industry and volume of cars and trucks develop.”
For more information, contact Andrew Frank,
New “smart” fishing gear could prevent the deaths of sea turtles, dolphins and whales that get accidentally trapped in fishing nets.
In April 2005, Steve Beverly, a former commercial fisherman and diver, won a grand prize of $25,000 from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for his fishing gear design. The WWF launched its International Smart Gear Competition in 2004 to come up with solutions to reduce the problem of “bycatch,” or the accidental death or maiming of sea turtles and other marine mammals in fishing nets.
Beverly’s design weighed down main fishing lines with lead weights and set the baited hooks at depths deeper than 328 feet, which allows fishermen to minimize encounters with sea turtles while maximizing their catch, according to WWF. In initial testing, three vessels fishing for tuna in Pacific waters caught 42 percent more tuna using Beverly’s new weighted, deep-set gear.
“While it’s obvious how vital the ocean’s been to me, we’re all dependent on an ocean full of life and, in turn, it’s dependent on our actions,” said Beverly. “It’s just common sense to create smarter fishing gear.”
Bycatch is a big problem, according to WWF. Long-line fishing crews accidentally catch more than 250,000 sea turtles each year in their nets and lines, according to Duke University. Fishermen lose hundreds of millions of dollars each year from catching non-target fish in their nets, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
For more information, contact Kathleen Sullivan,
World Wildlife Fund, email@example.com
New wave security
People screened at security checkpoints may soon be able to keep change in their pockets and their shoes on. Several U.S. companies are developing security sensors that use millimeter wave technology rather than conventional scanning technology such as metal detection.
Millimeter wave sensors can see objects such as guns or bombs through materials like packaging and clothing by detecting energy emitted naturally by objects. The technology is safe for humans, since millimeter waves are passive and do not pass through humans like radar waves or X-rays. In addition to detecting metal objects, the sensors can detect objects made of plastic, ceramic or composite–objects that metal detectors might miss.
Orlando-based Brijot Imaging Systems Inc. announced in March that, in association with Lockheed Martin, it developed a commercial millimeter wave scanner with a range of up to 45 feet that can identify as many as 50 threats simultaneously. The system monitors all the people within its viewing range, eliminating profiling concerns.
Millivision, of South Deerfield, Mass., which markets a millimeter wave scanner the size of a large amateur telescope for about $60,000, said the market for such devices is any entrance with a need for security.
About 2 billion people lack dependable access to safe drinking water, and in times of crisis the number soars. Water Health International, a California-based company, developed a prototype Emergency Relief Unit, a portable water treatment system designed to treat water contaminants commonly experienced in disaster situations.
For information, contact Dr. Tralance Addy,
president and CEO, Water Health International, 949-716-5790
Cold ocean water could help cool Honolulu office buildings for a fraction of electrical costs, according to Makai Ocean Engineering Inc. Energy costs for air conditioning can be cut as much as 80 percent using the technology, which takes ocean water from depths greater than 1,500 feet and pumps it into a cooling station, where it helps chill fresh water that cools buildings. Similar systems are in place in Toronto, Canada and Stockholm, Sweden, as well as Cornell University in New York.
For more information, contact Reb Bellinger,
An Alberta, Canada neighborhood will capture the sun’s rays in the summer to heat homes in the winter. The Canadian government, along with several Canadian companies and organizations, is building what it calls North American’s first large-scale housing development using solar heating.
The 52-home Drake Landing Solar Community is under construction in Okotoks, south of Calgary. Solar panels mounted on garage roofs will collect the sun’s energy and store it underground. During winter, the thermal energy will heat homes through a central district heating system.
Organizers say the project will reduce residential greenhouse gas emissions by 260 tons per year.
For more information, contact Ghyslain Charron,
Natural Resources Canada, 613-992-4447
Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Magdalena Hamner, Ann Holdsworth, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, and Bruce Wright