For Immediate Release
April 2, 2007
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Houston, TX — The Children’s Defense Fund of Texas released a new report today, In Harm’s Way: True Stories of Uninsured Texas Children. The report profiles 27 families across Texas whose children have lost health coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
More than 181,000 children have lost CHIP health coverage since budget cuts took effect in September, 2003 a 36% enrollment loss. The report is dedicated to Devante Johnson of Houston who had advanced kidney cancer and went without coverage for four critical months last year while his mother attempted to renew his CHIP coverage. Although his mother, Tamika Scott, submitted at least five complete renewal applications, the forms were lost in red tape, and she was unable to restore his coverage. Devante passed away on March 1, 2007 of complications from the disease.
“No child should have to suffer like my son did. While the red tape grew, so did his tumors. I did everything that I possibly could to renew his coverage. I would literally get off the phone in tears because the employees frustrated me so much. Children should be able to renew their coverage once a year, not every six months. Devante might be alive today if he had been able to keep his health coverage,” said Ms. Scott.
Barbara Best, Texas Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund called Devante’s death “an outrage.” “We must take action now to ensure that no other child suffers like Devante did. Children need preventive health care so that they can grow and learn. And no parent should have to watch their child suffer because they cannot afford private health insurance.”
The stories don’t stop with Devante. Nine year old Gabriela Garcia of Beaumont lost coverage because of an asset test which prevents families with small savings accounts and second vehicles worth more than $4,650 from qualifying for CHIP. Her old home was destroyed during Hurricane Rita. The family received a check from the insurance company to rebuild their home, which the state counted as an “asset.” As a result, Gabriella lost her health coverage. While uninsured, she missed 29 days of school last year because of severe migraines and untreated sinus infections.
“It was frustrating,” Gabriella’s mother explained. “My daughter needed medical attention, and I was unable to pay for it. CHIP provides confidence and a peace of mind.”
Texas has the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation, with one in five children 1.4 million – lacking coverage. Half of these children are eligible for but not enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid. More than 80% of uninsured children have working parents, but they cannot afford private coverage, which costs more than $900 a month according to the Texas Department of Insurance. As a result of cuts to its CHIP program, Texas has lost $900 million in federal matching funds that have been returned to the U.S. Treasury and spent by other states.
The report documents reasons for the sharp decline in CHIP reenrollment: the “recertification roller coaster” and processing problems with renewing children’s coverage every six months; families who are a fraction above the income limit and no longer qualify for coverage; chronically ill children who are subject to a 90 day waiting period; and children who have become ineligible for coverage because of the asset test.
The report also highlights the difficulties that grandparents raising grandchildren and Katrina evacuees have faced with the CHIP and Medicaid enrollment process in Texas.
The report recommends the full restoration of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and removing bureaucratic roadblocks that prevent eligible children from receiving coverage, including:
- Allowing children to reenroll in coverage once a year instead of every six months
- Removing the CHIP asset test
- Eliminating the 90 day waiting period for uninsured childrenDeducting child care and child support expenses when calculating income
- Providing adequate reimbursement for Medicaid and CHIP providers
- Creating a buy-in program to allow higher income families to purchase CHIP coverage at an affordable cost.