CHIP Rolls Grow But More Needs to be Done

The changes that the Texas legislature made to the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, during the last legislative session has seen enrollment increase substantially since September. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports.

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Barbara Best, the Executive Director of the Children's Defense Fund of Texas says enrollment has increased by 52,000 statewide and by 9,600 in Harris County, but she says while that is very good news, there is still a lot to do in Texas.

"We still have the highest rate of uninsured children anywhere in the United States with one in every five lacking coverage. That's one-point-five-million uninsured children in Texas. 850,000 of them are eligible for the Children's Health Insurance Program and Children's Medicaid."

Best says all uninsured Texas children can and should have health insurance. The Children's Defense Fund is working toward that goal with two aggressive enrollment programs. The first is with HISD which has for the first time included questions about health insurance on all enrollment form. This is HISD's Evelyn Henry.

"On the form there's a question, ‘does your child have health insurance, does your child have the Gold Card, does your child have CHIP, does your child have Medicaid, do you have private insurance or none?'  We take that data and enter it into our computer system and that way we can identify and know those children with no health insurance."

The effort to reach all of those HISD students without health insurance has been funded by three Houston hospitals, St Luke's, Texas Children's and Memorial Hermann.

The second enrollment effort will take place on Saturday, February 23. Winell Herron with HEB says 21 area HEB stores will take part.

"We'll be conducting a one day enrollment drive from 10 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. We'll have volunteers on hand and parents and guardians can come, bring their information and get their children enrolled with great health care coverage."

The information needed for enrollment is the child's birth certificate, proof of household income, such as a recent pay stub and proof of residency such as a child's social security number. Herron says the goal is largest CHIP enrollment in a single day.

The Children's Defense Fund's Barbara Best says the cost of insuring all Texas children is much less than the cost of  providing health care at emergency rooms.

"Went to the Harris County Hospital District and asked them how much it costs to treat an asthma attack. It costs a $100 to treat an asthma attack in a doctor's office. If the child is untreated and there is a serious attack they have to be hospitalized for three days, which is the average length of stay, its $7,300. One hundred dollars for the preventive visit versus $7,300 for the hospitalization, we do the math and know that preventive care is the much wiser investment."

CHIP costs the state $40 a month per child. With federal matching funds, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison says CHIP enrollment is "…a matter of simple fiscal conservatism."

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Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...