Chipping Away at Tough CHIP Requirements

House Dems call for repeal of tough eligibility requirements for working parents seeking health assistance for their uninsured children

House Democrats last week called for the repeal of tough eligibility requirements for working parents seeking public health assistance for their uninsured children. In 2003, lawmakers enacted tighter enrollment standards as their answer to a $10 billion deficit. At the time, Republican legislators boasted that they dealt with the budget shortfall without raising taxes; in fact, they merely punted the financial crisis and social responsibilities to the local level. Dozens of bills have been filed this session that would eliminate and revise some of the eligibility requirements for the Children's Health Insurance Program. Many of the changes would return CHIP to its original structure before the 2003 changes led to swift enrollment drops. More than 60 House Democrats have signed onto legislation that would strike the existing 90-day waiting period to receive CHIP coverage, change the application renewal requirement from every six months to once a year, and consider a family's eligibility based on net income instead of gross income.

"Children should not be denied CHIP coverage because their parents are saving money for college or saving money to purchase a house or saving money to start a small business," said Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, who has secured reappointment to the House Human Services Committee. In the Senate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has already gone on record opposing changes to the six-month renewal requirement, saying, "I don't think most people in Texas have a lot of sympathy for someone that can't fill out a two-page application every six months." Dewhurst aims to make "Texas Children First" a hallmark of his new term, but his campaign places most of its emphasis on stamping out child sex predators while saying nothing about children's health care.

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Texas Legislature, Children's Health Insurance Program, Elliott Naishtat, David Dewhurst, CHIP

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