Texas Families Distraught About Losing Children's Health Care If Congress Doesn't Fund CHIP

AUSTIN — Three-year-old Zachary Ogletree doesn’t speak. But after two years of therapy, he’s learned other ways to communicate with his family.“You know how babies learn how to talk by watching the parent? With Zachary, it takes a lot more than that because his brain is unable to do that,” said his mother, Tommie Ogletree of Lewisville. “We use a lot of sign language with him. We have these pictures with words on them as well as the picture. If he wants a snack, he’ll give me the snack card.”Zachary, who was diagnosed with severe autism as a baby, is one of 8,000 Denton County kids enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It covers 9 million children, including over 400,000 in Texas, whose parents make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level but too much to qualify for Medicaid.Zachary’s mother depends on CHIP to pay for the 20 hours a week he spends in therapy. He’s learning to communicate beyond sign language and picture cards and how to master basic life skills such as holding a fork and spoon. Without CHIP, each session would cost $410. Ogletree said regular therapy is crucial for his development.“If he doesn’t have that schedule, it really messes him up,” she said. “It throws everything off and makes him misbehave. He doesn’t want to eat or do anything.”Parents like the Ogletrees have been on edge about their children’s health care since Congress allowed CHIP funding to expire Sept. 30. The House passed a bill in early November that funds the program for five years, but the Senate has yet to act.  Continue reading...

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