Children’s healthcare has always been something that we, as a nation, have deemed to be of the utmost importance. Children are the future, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, has long worked to make sure that they have the healthcare coverage that they need. Established in 1997 under the Clinton administration, CHIP provides healthcare for children whose families earn too much in annual income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to be able to afford private insurance. It also covers pregnant women — approximately 370,000 annually — and provides care that includes prescriptions, mental health services, and prenatal and postpartum care.
As of 2016, 8.9 million children were enrolled through CHIP to gain access to necessary medical coverage that helps them grow up healthy. It covers check ups, immunizations, prescriptions, visits to the doctor, dental and vision care, emergency services and more. Unlike other healthcare plans, there is no enrollment period for CHIP, allowing uninsured children to begin receiving medical care as soon as they qualify.
CHIP is an incredibly crucial tool for ensuring the health and safety of children in America that has always received bipartisan support, yet Congress let funding for the program lapse on September 30 of this year. Now, here we are nearly three months later, and a bill has yet to be passed to fund it, drawing confusion from health care advocates from both sides of the aisle.
In addition to debating whether or not to fund Chip, Congress has also let important funding lapse for places like community health centers where many children covered by CHIP go to receive their medical services. Congress has had ample time and opportunity to pass a bill funding CHIP and other healthcare resources yet is continuing to prioritize other matters over providing insurance to children and healthcare access to our communities.
In Texas, nearly 400,000 children are covered by CHIP, and the state’s existing funds will only keep the program running until the end of January. Governor Greg Abbott has requested $90 million in federal funding to keep the program running until the end of February, an additional month of coverage. As of now, Texans on CHIP will be receiving a letter on December 22 informing them that their coverage will run out at the end of January, a terrible announcement to receive just days before Christmas.
Texas has long held the unfortunate position of having the greatest population of uninsured people in the country (with 4.5 million people uninsured) and has recently made the list of the worst states in the country for healthcare, coming in at No. 41. That’s number 41 out of 50 for the high-income residents. Across all measures of healthcare, in terms of access and affordability, Texas ranks fourth from last, beating only New Mexico, Nevada, and Alaska.
Refunding CHIP needs to be a priority for the representatives in Congress to secure the future and the health of the United States.
In an attempt to keep the federal government from shutting down, Congress passed a short-term solution for funding CHIP by providing nearly $3 billion in additional funding to keep the program funded through March of 2018.