After Cuts, CHIP Attempts Comeback

After suffering significant funding cuts in 2003, the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as "CHIP," is making a slow comeback in Texas, with some benefits restored and a new push to get more kids enrolled. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

Click to Listen

With just days before the start of a new school year, officials with the Children's Defense Fund and other child advocate organizations are making a push to enroll thousands of local children in the CHIP and Children's Medicare programs. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation, with more than 700,000 kids who are eligible for CHIP or Children's Medicare, but aren't enrolled yet. Barbara Best is the Texas Executive Director of the Children's Defense Fund and says the 2003 cuts hurt enrollment.

"We've lost more than 200,000 children from the CHIP program since 2003, so we have some work to do, more than 36,000 in Harris County. Families have been frustrated with tightened eligibility rules and a more difficult process. So that's why with our outreach events we are there to help families, we're going to personally accompany them through the process."

Lorna Harvey's 10-year-old son Kyle has had medical problems all his life, but she couldn't afford regular medical insurance and relied on emergency room care until just a few years ago. Since enrolling in CHIP, Harvey says her son has gotten the care that he needs.

"I think that this type of care is so much more comprehensive for a child because of immunizations, because of well-child care, because of annual physicals, those are things that unless you are able to pay that directly to the pediatrician, you're not able to get care for that. Not every parent has a child as I do with special needs, but every parent has a child that deserves health care."

There are an estimated 8.3 million children nationwide without health insurance and 1.3 million of those kids live in Texas. State Health Commissioner Albert Hawkins says providing kids with affordable health insurance now will save the state trouble in the future.

"The better job that we could do in keeping children healthy, keeping them from becoming sick, the better society is overall. So we encourage the preventative approach to health care services. We believe that insurance coverage is the key ingredient to making sure that they seek help early."

Families who are eligible for CHIP and Children's Medicare pay no more than $50 a month for health care. To find out more, the number is 1-877-KIDS-NOW.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...