In 2007, the Texas legislature had a brilliant idea. They passed a law that required the Texas Department of State Health Services to make public health care acquired infection rates for several surgical procedures and bloodstream infections in hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers and children’s hospitals by no later than June 1, 2008.

Hospitals were supposed to begin reporting by June 1, 2008. It’s nearly 2009 and still, the program has not begun because Texas lawmakers left out one important thing: they failed to fund the law.

As reported by the Dallas Morning News, the state should get this life-saving information to Texas patients. The health department asked the 2009 Legislature for $3.5 million for the next two years get this program off the ground. While it sounds like a lot of money, hospital infections cost the health care system billions of dollars. The CDC estimated that these infections cost up to an astounding $27.5 billion each year in hospital costs alone. The Texas health department estimates 130,000 to 160,000 hospital acquired infections annually.

The $11 billion state budget surplus is expected to further deplete in the upcoming session to pay its share for Hurricane Ike and rising Medicaid costs and enrollment. But state Sen. Jane Nelson thinks the prospects for public reporting in Texas are hopeful. “Now…we are better positioned to seek the funding needed to begin collecting data,” she said.

Over a thousand Texans sent letters to the Texas Legislative Budget Board to finally fund this law that would save lives and reduce costs. In this time of rising costs, rather than giving hospitals an extended break from improving the safety of patient care, the legislature should fund this program.