Congress Approves Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) Funding

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February 1, 2018

Texan's eyes were on Congress earlier this month as members discussed a funding bill to keep the government open. Although members highlighted immigration as the main issue, there were other important missed opportunities in the bill, including funds for hurricane recovery.

While many breathed a sigh of relief that the Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) was extended for six years with this bill, Congress could have reauthorized the program for ten years and saved $6 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office. CHIP is a bipartisan bill that helps Texas children get the immunizations, physicals, and other health care services they need to grow up to be healthy and productive adults. Unfortunately, Congress did not take this opportunity to assure nearly 9 million U.S. children and 400,000 kids across Texas enrolled in CHIP will have health insurance for the majority of their childhood.

Additionally, it took Congress over 100 days to reauthorize funding for the program, leading to a near crisis in Texas and many other states. Some states even sent letters warning families that without Congressional action their CHIP coverage might end, and other states came close to freezing CHIP enrollment. To avert crisis, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, disbursed its entire CHIP funding reserves. This is concerning as those reserves are important for unexpected events, like Hurricane Harvey, that often mean more families need assistance through programs like CHIP to get back on their feet. Additionally, state Medicaid commissioners across the U.S. are now questioning the federal government's reliability. Senator Uresti hopes that one day CHIP will become a permanently funded program so that millions of families do not have to worry their children will lose access to health care, as nearly happened in 2017 and 2018.

Congress also left another important program unfunded. Community Health Centers (CHCs) are essential for providing primary health care services throughout Texas, especially in Senate District 19. Regrettably, Congress also failed to reauthorize funding for these important providers in September and unless Congress acts soon CHCs could lose 70 percent of their budget, impacting 1.3 million Texans. Finally, the short term funding bill undermines funding for the Affordable Care Act by delaying taxes on medical device and health insurance corporations. Unless rectified, these actions will make it harder for Texans to access the health care services that they need.

To have a strong economy and productive workforce, Texas children and adults must be healthy. Moreover, as the next legislative session approaches Senator Uresti will push for agency actions and legislation to make sure all Texans have access to the health care services they need.