400,000 Texas children at risk of losing health insurance


Highlights

Congress missed the deadline to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Texas has enough funds to run its CHIP program until January or February.

About 400,000 Texas children and pregnant women could lose health insurance coverage if the federal government doesn’t renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Congress missed the Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize funding for the program, commonly known as CHIP, leaving some states with enough money for the program to last through the end of the year.

Texas CHIP would run out of money in January or February. After that, the state could face a $3 billion funding hole over the next two years for the program if Congress does nothing, said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

“We’ve been watching the CHIP reauthorization issue very closely. Indications are that it will be reauthorized, and we are hopeful for that,” Williams said.

The House and Senate are working on legislation to continue funding the program. Committees in both chambers are expected to consider the bills Wednesday.

Like with any block grant program, Congress must reauthorize funding for CHIP — which covers 9 million children nationally — every few years, but it missed the most recent deadline after failed efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to advocacy groups.

READ: Travis County DA asked to investigate anti-abortion group

“Most of the air has been taken out of the room by the Affordable Care Act repeal and replace effort, so I think that got pushed down the agenda,” said Stacy Wilson, president of the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas. “We are hoping that the bipartisan support that has traditionally underpinned CHIP will continue and that something will get passed.”

Established in 1997, CHIP covers children in families that have incomes above the threshold to be eligible for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance or obtain employee coverage. In Texas, a family of four with a monthly income of $4,043 or less, or yearly income of $48,513 or less, can qualify for CHIP.

The portion of uninsured Texas children at that income level has dropped from 18 percent in 1998 to 6 percent in 2015, according to the commission.

CHIP covers primary health care, prescriptions, mental health, vision, physical and occupational therapies and dental care for children under 19. Additionally, about Texas 36,000 women receive CHIP coverage for prenatal and postpartum services.

“These are families that are working and their kids are in school,” said Celia Neavel, a physician and director of the Center for Adolescent Health at People’s Community Clinic in Austin. “The cost benefit is huge. If they have chronic illnesses and you want to keep them out of the ER, you want to reduce absenteeism in school, having that ability for the kids to get comprehensive well visits, get routine follow-up, get medication, see specialists as needed, that just makes so much sense.”

People’s clinic sees multiple CHIP patients a day, particularly pregnant women.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

Austin resident Karen Carbajal, 29, said CHIP is a lifeline for her 1-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, who was getting a physical at People’s on Tuesday.

“We don’t qualify for Medicaid. We both make too much money. I work for a car wash and (my husband) works at an automotive junk yard. CHIP is very important for our kids,” she said.

The bills that Congress is considering would extend the program for another five years but would phase out a 23 percent bump in the federal matching rate over the next few years. That could mean an $800 million loss for Texas in the 2020-21 biennium and possible loss of services.

Currently, the federal government pays for most of the cost of the program.

“The money is significant in just getting that authorized, but you also have to look at how are you paying for it, and if you are paying for it from other vulnerable programs and important health programs, then concern comes up,” said Anne Dunkelberg, associate director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based liberal think tank.

Diminishing the federal matching rate could affect another 249,000 children in the Texas Medicaid program. Federal Medicaid funding for those children is tied to the higher CHIP rate.

“One in 10 babies born in this country is born in Texas, and so it affects us disproportionately if access to health care is compromised for children,” said Joyce Mauk, a Fort Worth physician and president of the Texas Pediatric Society. “There is nothing good you can say about taking away access to health care for children.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

JUST IN: Man injured in rollover crash in northeast Austin Sunday
JUST IN: Man injured in rollover crash in northeast Austin Sunday

One man was injured in a rollover crash in northeast Austin on Sunday, Austin-Travis County EMS said. The wreck occurred on the southbound service road of Texas 130 near East Pflugerville Parkway shortly before 3 p.m., EMS said. A man in his 30s was pulled from his vehicle and taken to Seton Medical Center Williamson with potentially serious injuries...
Police: Florida woman kills husband, hides his duct taped body in closet
Police: Florida woman kills husband, hides his duct taped body in closet

A 65-year-old Florida woman was arrested and accused of murdering her husband and then hiding his duct-taped body behind a brick wall she built inside a closet.  Barbara Wozniak, of Shalimar, was charged with second-degree murder Friday night while she was already in the Okaloosa County jail on another charge of tampering with evidence...
AUSTIN SCHOOL BOND: Campaign cash, outreach to parents fueled big win
AUSTIN SCHOOL BOND: Campaign cash, outreach to parents fueled big win

Even staunch supporters of the Austin school district’s $1.1 billion bond were surprised when it passed with 72 percent of the vote on Nov. 7. The single, all-or-nothing proposition was the largest ever approved by Austin residents, even as angst grows over ever-escalating property taxes. Those who lobbied for it stuck to the basics, with a data-driven...
Fuel spill closes southbound I-35 near William Cannon in South Austin
Fuel spill closes southbound I-35 near William Cannon in South Austin

1:15 p.m. update: Austin police said the southbound lanes of Interstate 35 near William Cannon Drive in South Austin will be closed for another two hours as crews clean up a fuel spill from a tanker truck that struck a median. Police urged drivers to avoid the area. Earlier: The southbound lanes of Interstate 35 near William Cannon Drive in South Austin...
Man charged with aggravated assault in baseball bat attacks
Man charged with aggravated assault in baseball bat attacks

A 26-year-old man was charged with five counts of aggravated assault after police said he struck five people with his hands and an aluminum baseball bat in North Austin. Kenney Irons was booked into the Travis County Jail in lieu of bail set at $100,000 following the incident at Zoe’s Helping Hand, 8007 Burnet Road. An affidavit filed by Austin...
More Stories