Texas Senate Votes To Boost CHIP Enrollment By Allowing Higher Income Families

The Texas Senate voted late Wednesday to allow families of four making up to $66,000 to get into the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program by paying a share of the cost, The Associated Press reports. “Currently only families making less than twice the federal poverty level — around $44,100 for a family of four — are eligible for the joint federal and state health care program.” Some families making more than three times the federal poverty level would be able to also buy into the program. Three times the federal poverty level for a family of four is about $66,000. The plan’s supporters say it could extend coverage to 80,000 uninsured children in the state (AP, 5/27).

“The proposal was added as an amendment to a measure on newborn screening after separate CHIP expansion bills passed by the House and Senate fell victim to legislative deadlines,” The Dallas Morning News reports (Stutz, 5/28).

“Parents would pay premiums, co-payments and fees that would not exceed 5 percent of net family income,” The Houston Chronicle reports.

“The state budget being finalized this week includes $43 million to pay the state's share of expanding CHIP. The federal government pays pays 72 cents of every dollar spent on CHIP so the expansion would draw additional matching funds. Critics worry that some parents might drop their existing private insurance for the less expensive state-funded health plan. But lawmakers said a requirement that children be uninsured for six months prior to applying for CHIP makes that unlikely.”

The vote sends the plan back to the Texas House — which had earlier passed a similar bill that would extend eligibility for families making four times the poverty level — for consideration. The session ends June 1 (Elliott, 5/28).

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