AUSTIN - As lawmakers on Capitol Hill continue to discuss the future of the CHIP program, Texas is set to receive $135 million from the federal government to keep benefits in place thru February.
CHIP, which stands for Children's Health Insurance Program, has been in place nationally since 1997. While benefits vary by state, the program is designed to assist families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health insurance on the private market.
While the funding will provide relief through the holiday season, Stacy Wilson, the president of the Children's Hospital Association of Texas, said it's not enough.
"Having this kind of piecemeal approach just make families very, very concerned and frustrated, and frantic. There are a lot of our sister and brother organizations who have been getting calls from parents going 'what do I do? How do I bridge this gap if this funding runs out if my child can't get to CHIP?'," said Wilson.
Nationally, CHIP provides benefits to about nine million children. In Texas, it provides benefits to about 400,000 children and 36,000 pregnant women.
"Currently, there is a law in Texas that says without federal funding, the CHIP program will not continue. So what that means is, these 400,000 children and these 36,000 pregnant women would have to go to the marketplace under the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare and try to find coverage there," Wilson explained.
Wilson credited the program with helping lower the uninsured rate among children over the past twenty years.
"One of the most important (accomplishments) is that the uninsured rate for children has gone down to single digits, which is amazing for a state that we have a lot of small employers who don’t offer coverage because it is very expensive. We also have not a lot of folks that take up insurance. Because of that, we end up with a huge uninsured rate in Texas. But for children, it’s down below 10 percent, and CHIP is one of the primary reasons that has happened," said Wilson.
The program expired at the end of September, though the state had enough funding to last through 2017.
On Friday, U.S. Senator John Cornyn tweeted that Congress would pass a long-term CHIP bill this week. Traditionally, the program has received bipartisan support, which is one of the reasons why Wilson is hopeful lawmakers will approve a longer-term extension.
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