Children's Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide comprehensive health coverage geared to the unique needs of children. Given their generous federal matching dollars, these programs are cost-effective ways for the state to help working parents provide health insurance for their children. Yet around 850,000 of the state's uninsured children are eligible for, but not enrolled in, Medicaid or CHIP.
The 2007 Texas Legislature took bold steps to provide health care coverage for more uninsured Texas children by enacting House Bill 109, a TMA-backed, bipartisan bill. The new law reinstates 12 months' continuous coverage for children enrolled in CHIP, establishes a realistic asset test for working families, and allows working parents to deduct the cost of childcare from their incomes when determining CHIP eligibility. As a result, more than 160,000 children have gained health care coverage.
Unfortunately, children on Medicaid, the poorest children in our state, did not receive 12 months' continuous coverage. Instead they must reenroll every six months. Applying 12-months' continuous coverage is good medicine and good public policy. Children with regular, ongoing access to a physician are more likely to receive cost-effective preventive and primary care. Eliminating the twice-a-year reenrollment would reduce problems with the state's eligibility system and reduce caseworkers' workload by half.
Medicine's 2009 Agenda
- Enact 12 months' continuous coverage for children enrolled in Medicaid and maintain the same policy for CHIP.
- Strengthen outreach initiatives to sign up all children who are eligible but not enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid.
- Support measures to improve the accuracy and timeliness of the eligibility process for patients.
- Further increase children's Medicaid and CHIP physician payments to keep pace with the amount it costs to provide the services.
- The reason most low-income families do not purchase private health insurance or accept it from their employer is that it is too expensive. On average, family health insurance coverage costs $12,000 annually.
- Medicaid and CHIP are good buys for Texas, given their generous federal matching dollars. Both programs offer low-income working parents an affordable mechanism for insuring their children.