East Texas parents and children advocates concerned about CHIP funding delays

Deisy Santoya, a Head Start teacher assistant and mother of three relies on CHIP to help her with her children's medical expenses. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Deisy Santoya, a Head Start teacher assistant and mother of three relies on CHIP to help her with her children's medical expenses. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Jimmy Kimmel, a talk show host used his platform to bring awareness about the jeopardy CHIP faces. He holds his son, Billy, who had heart surgery last week. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Jimmy Kimmel, a talk show host used his platform to bring awareness about the jeopardy CHIP faces. He holds his son, Billy, who had heart surgery last week. (Source: KTRE Staff)

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A national issue is being felt here on the local level.

Congress has yet to adopt funding for the Children's Health Insurance Plan, also referred to as CHIP.

For some families, CHIP is a financial lifeline covering crucial health costs.

So while Congress directs its attention to tax reform, CHIP's future remains unknown. The delay concerns everyone from celebrities, all the way to parents of small children right here in Deep East Texas.

"Daddy cries on television, but Billy doesn't," said Jimmy Kimmel, a talk show host. "It's unbelievable."

Kimmel's son had heart surgery last week, something his dad can afford through paid insurance. The celebrity is now enlightened about other sick children of parents who fall through financial cracks. They rely on a federal plan that's currently in jeopardy.

"The Children's Health Insurance Program covers around ... it covers around 9-million American kids whose parents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid," Kimmel said.

At the same time, they don't make enough money for insurance, just like Deisy Santoya, a hard-working teacher's assistant at Nacogdoches Head Start and mother of three, who is also a CHIP recipient.

"It helps me in a big way because I only have insurance thru my work, but to put them in there I would have to pay a lot," Santoya said. "I won't have enough money to cover the bills."

Santoya is not alone. About 400,000 Texas children are on CHIP. Money and time for the program are running out says community health center directors.

"There are 16 states, including Texas, that project they'll run out of CHIP funding at the latest by the end of January of 2018," said Robin Moore, the director of the East Texas Community Health Center.

"Which means parents of children with cancer, diabetes and heart problems are about to get letters saying their coverage could be cut off next month," Kimmel said on his show. Merry Christmas, right."

The Children's Defense Fund of Texas continues to sign up CHIP applicants. They bank on funding coming through for the bipartisan program.

"Well, in jeopardy doesn't mean that the program is gone," said Joanna Bowden Bennett, an associate with Children's Defense Fund Community Health Outreach. "The program is still there and there is still money right now to be utilized."

It's the "what if" no funding is allocated that provides monologue material for outspoken talk show hosts.

"CHIP has become a bargaining chip," Kimmel said on his show. "It's on the back burner."

That fact has parents worrying about how they can keep health coverage for their children.

The latest word out of Washington is Congress will continue to pass temporary measures to make sure states get the chip funding they need.

The plan was originally created in 1997 with strong bipartisan support.

To sign up for CHIP, contact the Children's Defense Fund at (936) 463-8868 or send an e-mail to Joanna Bennett. You can also visit the Children's Defense Fund website.

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