May 18, 2007
CHIP expansion finally nearing

Still not the best we can do, but better than what we've got.

Budget negotiators agreed Thursday to spend as much as $89.5 million to expand CHIP, which is for children in families that don't qualify for Medicaid and can't afford private insurance. The spending is contingent on passage of House Bill 109, which has already passed the House and was revamped before being OK'd Thursday by the Finance Committee.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, was the only "no" vote on HB109. He has voiced concern about the cost of 12-month eligibility.

The Senate committee version, which has a $58.7 million price tag, would cost less than the House bill's $73.6 million. If approved by the full Senate, the bill will return to the House for consideration of changes.


"What we'll be doing in this bill is repairing some of the damage done in 2003" that resulted in a decline in enrollment, said Averitt. "After all is said and done, over 100,000 children are going to be able to participate in this program again."

The Finance Committee's extra check of income eligibility would apply only to those at the upper levels of CHIP eligibility.

Averitt said it would be a "non-intrusive" electronic income verification that "clients probably won't even know is happening."

Rep. Sylvester Turner, the Houston Democrat who championed HB109 and is a budget negotiator, said updated state figures show the House version would expand coverage to 135,000 more children, while the Senate changes would cover only 101,000 more.

"We've already compromised in the House," Turner said. "I don't think the children need to get caught up in this red tape and bureaucratic maze. These kids need insurance now."

Like I said, better than what we've got, but not the best we can do. At some point after the session, I'll have to go back and review the "Democrats for Real Reform" agenda to see how their results matched up to their wish list. For now, I'm just glad that this sucker finally has the goal line in sight.

As I understand it, there are some riders already in the budget that would help undo some of the arcane HHSC rules about CHIP that have contributed to its recent drop in enrollment. I don't have all the details, but the bottom line is that more than one facet of the CHIP question is being addressed. At long last, we're regaining some of the ground that was lost in 2003. Hopefully, in the next session, we can make some actual progress.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 18, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo

Damn good point, Kuff. Good memory, too. It is very important to tally the gains and losses of the Craddick D's. It's not a matter of good or bad, it's just a matter of cost/benefit analysis. If Turner gets CHIP and the System Benefit Fund, if Norma Chavez gets the Indian gaming bill, if Puente gets his water bills, then the Craddick D's can go back home and say it was all worth it. But things aren't looking good right now for the Craddick D's. They have little to show for crossing the party so badly.

Posted by: el_longhorn on May 19, 2007 12:57 AM