More than 400,000 low-income Texas kids and expecting mothers will be covered by a federal health care plan for a month longer than they expected.
In September, when Congress let the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expire, those children and pregnant women in Texas were suddenly at risk of losing their health coverage by January. But the federal government announced on Dec. 15 they’d fork over $136 million to continue funding CHIP in Texas until February, while Congress tries to figure out a long-term solution.
CHIP provides health coverage for children under 18 whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but still don’t make enough to afford private insurance, or aren’t covered through employers. In order to qualify, a family of four (two adults, two children) must earn less than $4,163 per month. The lower the monthly income, the lower the yearly fees and copays are for doctor visits. CHIP covers dental and eye care, prescription drugs, mental health care and pre-existing conditions.
In San Antonio, the University Health System estimated that between 70-80 percent of their patients are covered by Medicaid or CHIP. Ryan Van Ramshorst, a pediatrician with UHS, told the Current in October he saw at least one CHIP recipient per day.
CHIP also provides coverage for pregnant women who don’t qualify for Medicaid, including prenatal visits, labor and delivery, and check-ups for newborns.
Last week, Senator John Cornyn tweeted that funding CHIP is on Congress’s radar, simply stating “Congress will pass a long term CHIP bill next week”.
Should Congress not pull through, however, state organizations are also taking action to ensure children in the state aren't left without coverage. House Speaker Joe Straus and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission are looking into other temporary fixes to keep the program funded for a couple of months if Congress doesn't pull through, the Dallas Morning News reported.
"CHIP is an effective program with bipartisan support, and the children who benefit from this program should never have been put in a position where they might lose care," Straus said in a statement obtained by the El Paso Times. "I hope Congress will reauthorize the program soon in order to provide the longer-term care certainty that working families in Texas need."