Houston's Goal: Health Insurance for Every Child

New state laws that make it simpler to enroll kids in the Children's Health Insurance Program have prompted the Houston Independent School District, along with a number of community organizations, to set a goal that 100 percent of children in the district wil have health coverage. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

Click to Listen

The new law allows a child to receive CHIP for one year before the family has to reapply. It also eliminates the 90 day waiting period that used to be required before a child was eligible for coverage. State Representative Sylvester Turner authored the bill, which is designed to make sure more children have access to preventive care.

"When kids are sick it is difficult for them to learn and to be educated. When kids are well they can exceed and they can excel."

Turner joined with a number of lawmakers, the Children's Defense Fund and HISD to announce the 100% campaign. HISD Superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra says about 22 percent, or 40,000 children, in the district are uninsured.

"Our goal is simple: to enroll every single child in HISD in health insurance and to reduce emergency room costs for our local hospitals and our taxpayers. We know that children who are not healthy do not come to school and children who do not come to school do not learn to read and do not become educated. And we also know that the only way we break the cycle of poverty for our children is to educate them, but we need healthy children to educate."

HISD has included a question on their enrollment form asking parents whether their child has health insurance. The district will sort through those applications and identify every child that isn't covered. They're hiring outreach coordinators to locate each of those families and connect them with a healthcare source, whether that be CHIP, Medicaid or a local clinic. Deanna Dumas is a single mother of three, works full-time and is a full-time student at the University of Houston.

"I just wanted to say that CHIP has done a wonder for me and my family. I work, I go to school and I'm in the $30,000 range and it's still hard to pay medical bills. It's still hard to pay the co-payments, the prescriptions, everything you need - shots, immunizations."

Funding for the district outreach coordinators comes from the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities and Texas Children's Health Plan. And Fiesta Stores, McDonald's and the Houston Apartment Association are sponsoring enrollment drives around the city. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...