By Caleb Seibert
On Sept. 30, Congress allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire throughout the United States. CHIP provides coverage to children and families who have too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough money to pay for health insurance. Many policymakers in Washington have assured the public that the program will be refunded soon, but disagreements in Congress threaten to prolong the issue.
The subsequent waiting period and program insecurity have significant implications for Texas and the thousands of women and children reliant on CHIP-funded healthcare. One of the CLC’s human life public policy priorities, as determined by CLC commissioners, is to support efforts to expand access to affordable health care for all Texans. CHIP reauthorization is a critical, time-sensitive issue for many Texas children.
CHIP was created by federal statute in 1997 and adopted in Texas two years later. CHIP’s services are outlined on the Texas Health and Human Services website. They include many of the basic healthcare needs impacting children and pregnant mothers, including regular checkups, dental work, prescription drugs, access to specialists, treatment of pre-existing conditions, and a host of other issues.
In addition to basic health coverage, CHIP allows pregnant women to apply for perinatal coverage. A family’s income must be equal to or below 201 percent of the federal poverty level to be eligible for CHIP funding in Texas. Families participating in CHIP pay a maximum of $50 per child to enroll in the program, but many of the lowest-income families pay no enrollment fee.
CHIP’s footprint in Texas is significant. A recent study by Cover Texas Now reports that nearly 394,000 children are covered by the program directly and another 249,000 have medical expenses that are subsidized through CHIP’s matching rate. In addition, about 36,000 women receive prenatal care and post-delivery check-ups through CHIP.
Funding for CHIP comes primarily through the federal government. Each state pays for a portion. Texas receives about 92 percent of its CHIP funding from the federal government. If Congress continues to delay the renewal process, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that state reserve funds to support the program will run out by February 2018.Given the increase on government resources due to Hurricane Harvey there is concern that Texas could run out of CHIP funding sooner.
Both the U.S. House and the Senate passed separate bills this year to renew CHIP, but disagreement over where the money should come from led to a gridlock that has yet to be resolved. Bipartisan supporters of CHIP are calling upon Congress to act quickly.
The timing of this process is urgent. Texas’ biennial budget has CHIP funding covered until 2019, with the expectation of millions of dollars in federal matching grants. If that money is withheld, the program will be unable to support itself within a few months, leaving thousands of families and children in a desperate position with little recourse. Congress should take action soon to ensure that needy families in Texas and around the country have what they need to prosper.
If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard (Proverbs 21:13).
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27).
Please contact your congressperson and senators and ask them to prioritize CHIP funding.
My name is____________. I am calling to ask Congressperson/Senator _________ to prioritize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Almost 1 million low-income/working families depend on CHIP for health insurance to cover medications for chronic childhood illnesses like diabetes and asthma. I hope I can count on your support.
To find out who represents you, click here.
Caleb Seibert is a public policy intern with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. He is a student at the University of Texas in Austin, LBJ School of Public Policy.