There are other challenges that require a unified approach, especially in the area of health care. A lack of preventative medicine means conditions that could have been eliminated through childhood immunizations show up in disturbing numbers later in life. Limited availability of medical specialists means conditions like heart disease and diabetes go untreated at alarming rates. In Texas, we recently placed a strong emphasis on preventative care when we expanded access to Medicaid for more low-income children by making the Medicaid enrollment process simpler. We allocated an additional $4 billion to the Medicaid program, and more than $900 million to the Children's Health Insurance Program. I urged legislators to pass a telemedicine pilot program that will enable, through technology, a sick border resident of limited financial means to receive care from a specialist hundreds of miles away. But the effort to combat disease and illness requires greater cooperative efforts between our two nations. It is a simple truth that disease knows no boundaries. An outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis, for example, endangers citizens of both our nations. We have much to gain if we work together to expand preventative care, and treat maladies unique to this region.
Legislation authored by border legislators Pat Haggerty and Eddie Lucio establishes an important study that will look at the feasibility of bi-national health insurance. This study recognizes that the Mexican and U.S. sides of the border compose one region, and we must address health care problems throughout that region. That's why I am also excited that Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar is working on an initiative that could extend the benefits of telemedicine to individuals living on the Mexican side of the border.
Perry also touted a DREAM Act-like initiative:
We must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, “we don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there.” And that vision must include the children of undocumented workers. That’s why Texas took the national lead in allowing such deserving young minds to attend a Texas college at a resident rate. Those young minds are a part of a new generation of leaders, the doors of higher education must be open to them. The message is simple: educacion es el futuro, y si se puede.
As far as the cross-border healthcare initiative goes, Perry's spokespeople can brush it off, pointing out that the idea never went past the study phase. But this isn't certainly a long way from the Rick Perry of today, who's better known for his proposal to send U.S. troops into Mexico.
Will this hurt Perry's conservative credentials? One Tea Party activist tells the Dallas Morning News that "More checking under the hood needed before we buy the car." Then again, this is a race where a former Utah governor whose signature achievements in office were the state's largest ever tax cut, a ban on second trimester abortions, and expanding gun rights is considered a moderate than a former Massachusetts governor whose signature achievement was the precursor to Obamacare. Once a candidate's ideological identity gets established, it's pretty hard to shake.
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