Thousands of Texas Children May Lose CHIP Health Coverage

Many North Texas families will soon learn whether their children will have health insurance next year.

(Published Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017)

Many North Texas families will soon learn whether their children will have health insurance next year.

If Congress doesn't act fast to renew money for the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, the state will be forced to cancel coverage for tens of thousands of children.

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According to ForABetterTexas.org, the current CHIP caseload by county as of August 2017 lists 50,274 cases in Dallas County; 32,891 in Tarrant County; 7,659 in Collin County and 8,241 in Denton County.

At the North Texas Area Community Health Center in Fort Worth, call center operators are busy with questions from concern parents.

"We have a lot of confused patients regarding the CHIP, and they're worried," said Brieanna Barajas, a call center operator.

Fifty percent of the children who come the center are covered under CHIP, a program that has covered basic health needs for children of families at about the poverty level for the past 20 years.

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"When they call, we are like, 'We know,'" Barajas said.

Barajas can relate, because she relies on CHIP for her 4-year-old son.

"I actually got approved, and when I asked them what's going to happen with the CHIP, they told me they really don't know, just go with it," she said.

Barajas said she's already had to postpone one of her child's doctors' appointments.

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Providers at the clinic fear others still stop bringing in their children altogether.

"Parents are going to be concerned for the cost of their kids' care. They may not be coming in for wellness visits and vaccinations," said Dr. Elizabeth Rivera, a physician at the center.

The state's plan is to notify families that the program could end.

In the meantime, federal qualified clinics like the North Texas Area Community Health Center are bracing for a surge in patients.

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They treat anyone who needs medical care, whether at a discounted price or free for those who qualify.

However, resources are already stretched thin, Rivera says, and concern is setting in.

"It's just frightening. I already don't qualify for any food stamps or any help for school. I have to pay for school, so now, even this, having to pay for my son's insurance under my insurance at work, that's going to be very hard," Barajas said.

CHIP also covers prenatal services for low-income pregnant women.

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Texas already has the highest maternal death rate in the country.