CHIP remains in limbo despite stopgap spending bill

(MGN/file)

(KWTX) Congress approved a stopgap spending bill Thursday that provides at least a temporary reprieve for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides coverage for 400,000 children in the state, thousands of them in Central Texas.

President Donald Trump said he would sign the measure, which will keep agencies running through Jan. 19.

Federal funding for CHIP expired on Sept. 30, and Congress has been promising for weeks to pass a bill that would keep the popular program running.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle say they support the program, which has paid for medical services for low-income children and pregnant women since its start in 1997.

Texas officials expect to have enough money to fund the program through February and have not yet sent warning letters to parents of children with CHIP coverage, but should funding run out, the consequences could be serious.

"It could negatively impact them in either not seeking healthcare when they should, or having to pay for healthcare that's going to further stress the family's finances,” said Ellen Hansen, the chief operating officer of McLane Children’s Hospital in Temple.

Several states have already issued letters to CHIP enrollees warning that programs will end without Congress passing a spending bill.

Texas law requires that families receive 30 days’ notice if their CHIP program is ending.

With the possibility that termination letters could go out next month, medical officials advise local residents to use their benefits while they still have them.

“If you have anything that is needed…if you're putting off going and getting your well-child check-ups or getting immunizations, get to your physicians now, and make sure you're getting taken care of,” Hansen said.

Children’s advocacy organizations are pushing for a long-term funding solution.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Defense Fund, Children’s Dental Health Project, Children’s Hospital Association, Family Voices, First Focus Campaign for Children, March of Dimes and National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners released a joint statement Thursday afternoon after the passage of the temporary spending bill by the House in which they said states and families need stability.

“Instead, what they get from the House measure is a continuation of a dangerous trend: temporary, inadequate CHIP funding patches, delivered at the last possible moment with no comprehensive relief or assurance.

“Congress’ failure to extend CHIP funding long-term has resulted in a manufactured emergency that has real consequences for children, families and pregnant women. Congress must take the opportunity to pass a five-year CHIP funding extension on a bill this week to fund the federal government,” the statement said.