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Court Rules Bush’s Medicaid Program in Texas Inadequate

By Maria L. La Ganga

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who has campaigned on his record of caring for needy Texans, was caught flat-footed Wednesday by a federal court ruling that said his state has not provided adequate medical care for poor children.

U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice ruled earlier this month that Texas had not lived up to a 1996 legal agreement to improve children’s access to Medicaid.

Although the ruling was filed Aug. 14, and the state attorney general’s office was aware of it, neither Bush nor his campaign staff had heard of the decision until Wednesday when they were peppered with questions about it.

Bush landed here at the end of a campaign day -- which began in New Hampshire, touched down in Pennsylvania, started out on education and warmed up with jibes at the Clinton administration -- only to be asked repeatedly about the decision.

He hadn’t seen it, he said, and did not know about it until Wednesday. “I look forward to seeing exactly what [Justice] was referring to,” Bush said.

The state attorney general will appeal the ruling, said Karen Hughes, Bush’s communications director. “The state emphatically disagrees with the findings of this very activist, liberal judge,” she said.

The Gore campaign -- which has focused this week on proposals for covering uninsured children -- pounced on the issue. Gore spokeswoman Kym Spell said the ruling “is just the latest evidence that Gov. Bush’s policies have left countless families in Texas without health insurance -- most tragically children.”

The original suit to improve Medicaid for young Texans dates back to 1993, during the tenure of Bush’s predecessor, Gov. Ann Richards. The consent decree -- nearly 150 measures that the state agreed to take -- was finalized in 1996, during Bush’s first term as governor.