East Texas Children Fall Off CHIP Enrollment

This month 9,000 kids left the rolls of the state's low cost insurance program known as 'CHIP'. Since December more than 30,000 kids lost the insurance. Some of those children live in East Texas.

In Nacogdoches the East Texas Community Health Center's billing bulletin board reads 'The money stops here'. True in one context because there are fewer and fewer CHIP claims to process. "I haven't seen very much come across my desk," said financial director Tricia Martin.

Since 2001 CHIP is reporting its lowest number of participants. Health center director Robin Moore said, "The big push to really help get kids enrolled in CHIP has diminished a lot. And now what you're facing is a tight state budget and when people don't enroll then that means fewer state dollars are having to go to that program."

The Children's Defense Fund of Texas blames the new state contractor that's processing CHIP applications. Moore said, "It's very confusing system. Chip now has primary care providers that are assigned. When Medicaid went into that a few months ago it created horrible confusion." Many parents are failing to pay a $50 a month enrollment fee that must be renewed every six months.

The coverage is helps pay for a wide range of services from preventive care to serious illnesses. "It covers them in hospitals, everything else. We can't do that as an entity, so CHIP has a whole array of benefits that we can't offer. So while we can cover one part of it, it doesn't carry the rest of it," explained Moore.

Moore says sick children will be treated, but if enrollment problems are not fixed soon community clinics and emergency rooms must continue facing the costs without the benefit of federal matches.