By Don Morgan
Children’s advocates are concerned that health insurance for almost 400,000 children in Texas is being held prisoner by partisan politics.
Senate Republicans, making a last ditch effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act, have put re-authorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, on hold until their repeal measure passes.
Patrick Bresette, executive director of Children’s Defense Fund – Texas, points out that CHIP must be reauthorized by the end of this month to avoid a lapse in coverage.
“We were moving along on a process that looked like a good five-year extension of CHIP, and then everything has been put on hold, essentially, to try and pressure people into voting for some sort of crazy return to repeal,” he states. “It just feels like one of the best programs is being held hostage to this political process.”
Bresette says most children who receive CHIP coverage are from working class families that are too poor to buy insurance on the open market, but make too much to qualify for Medicaid.
He adds that CHIP, combined with the Medicaid program, helped Texas ensure that more than 90 percent of Texas children had health coverage in 2015, a 10 percent increase over 2008.
Bresette says the loss of – or even a delay in – CHIP funding could cause major hardships for children and their families.
“Interruptions in that kind of stable care and oversight of these kids’ health are really problematic,” he stresses. “You see kids losing appointments, delaying time to get, maybe, asthma treatments, or things being identified. So, we know any interruption would have a direct impact on children’s health.”
Bresette says historically, CHIP has had strong bipartisan support.
“One of the things about the CHIP program is that it has been stable, and has been basically a bipartisan-supported program,” he points out. “States love it. Great for families, doctors love it.
“And so, I think it’s a symptom of the current penchant for putting this kind of political fight in front of what’s best, particularly for the most vulnerable.”
Without a re-authorization, officials say Texas CHIP would run out of funding by February 2018.