May 16, 2009
Another win for CHIP

Good news on the CHIP front.

The Texas House today gave final approval to a measure that would expand the Children's Heath Insurance Program by allowing certain families who earn more than the current income limit to pay to join the program. The vote was 87-55.

The measure could add some 80,000 children to CHIP. It now heads to the Senate, which has already passed a similar measure.

The bill passed yesterday is HB2962. The Senate measure that had passed earlier is SB841.

The author of the CHIP bill, Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he fully agrees with expanding the Medicaid enrollment period. But he said that sending the CHIP bill to the Senate with the Medicaid measure attached may have doomed the entire measure. "It would have become a poison pill," Coleman said.

The Medicaid proposal by Rep. Sylvester Turner, D- Houston, has a much larger price tag than the CHIP one -- nearly $300 million over two years, compared to about $40 million for the CHIP bill. The Medicaid proposal could add some 258,000 children to Medicaid.

Coleman said that it's become clear that the state budget won't include money for the Medicaid proposal. Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, who is on the House team negotiating the final version of the budget with members of the Senate, said that though the Medicaid bill has "a pretty steep price tag," it's too early to say for sure whether it has a future in the budget.

The income limit for CHIP is now $44,100 for a family of four. (It's $22,050 for Medicaid).

Under the CHIP bill, a family of four earning between $44,100 and and $66,150 a year could join the program. Unlike the existing CHIP program, families would pay monthly premiums on a sliding scale based on income and family size. The House version would also allow families of four earning between $66,150 and $88,200 to pay the full cost of the program to join (roughly $150 per child per month). Also, the House version would reinstate a "medically needy" program for adults that the Legislature cut in 2003 -- it covers health care costs for people with catastrophic medical needs.

It would be very nice to be able to add those kids to Medicaid, but given the Senate's manufactured crisis over Medicaid, I'm not optimistic. Still, it's great to see CHIP getting re-expanded back towards pre-2003 numbers. The need for it is as great as it's ever been, that's for sure. I've got a statement from Rep. Coleman about this beneath the fold.

State Representative Garnet F. Coleman (D-Houston), who helped create the original Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in Texas, applauds the House for finally passing HB 2962 which will increase enrollment in and public awareness of CHIP.

"This collaborative, bipartisan product will allow an estimated 80,000 children to access health care," said Representative Coleman. "It will increase public awareness of the CHIP program to bring in children currently eligible under existing limits who remain uncovered."

HB 2962 will implement a sliding scale to cover uninsured kids with working parents earning from 200 to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

"Families covered under these provisions will have to pay co-payments and monthly premiums, and will contribute more than the state to the CHIP buy-in created in this bill," said Representative Coleman. "If families do not pay their monthly premiums, they will be locked out of the program. We've also added strict anti-crowd out provisions to ensure that private health insurance is not substituted by CHIP coverage."

The bill includes a full cost buy-in option, at no cost to the state, for children from families with a net income from 300 to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, who were previously enrolled but lost coverage due to an increase in income.

HB 2962 also excludes child support payments and assets in college savings plans from being considered when determining eligibility for programs like CHIP and Medicaid.

"This will encourage families to invest in the future of their children's education without fear that their investment will cause them to lose their health care," said Representative Coleman. "My only regret is that we could not include annual Medicaid eligibility at this time since there is no money appropriated for this provision."

Representative Coleman expresses appreciation to Chairman Patrick Rose and the members of the Human Services Committee, Speaker Sylvester Turner, and the joint-authors of this legislation - Reps. Dawnna Dukes, John Zerwas, John Davis, and Elliott Naishtat - for their tireless work and dedication in making this possible.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 16, 2009 to Budget ballyhoo

You have to wonder how many of the parents of the children enrolled have health insurance.

Congress of course will not address the problem any more than the Texas Legislature will. The only solution is health care for all with a reasonable cost and the only way you will have that is to get rid of the insurance companies. And that isn't going to happen. Congress in fact is preparing to force health insurance on all Americans. With rates set by the insurance companies.Who promise to reduce costs. Who also said tort reform would reduce costs. And on and on it goes. One scam after another.

Something really is not better than nothing although the Texas Legislature consistently believes it is.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on May 16, 2009 10:41 AM

It's nice to allow CHIP buy-in, but the real need is by the families with the lowest incomes -- Medicaid. There's money in the budget for 12-month Medicaid, assuming that Texas gets a bump up in federal aid when our unemployment rate passed 9% (coming soon). But CHIP is the popular program; Medicaid is forgotten.

Posted by: David Siegel on May 16, 2009 4:03 PM
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