AUSTIN - State Sen. Kip Averitt’s ongoing effort to restore cuts made to the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 2003 enjoyed a major victory Thursday when the McGregor Republican pushed an essential CHIP restoration bill through the Senate Finance Committee.
Averitt’s committee substitute for House Bill 109 changes eligibility determination from gross income to net, alters the current 90-day waiting period to allow uninsured children immediate admittance, and provides continuous 12-month eligibility as long as a participating family does not exceed the program’s income threshold.
“Texas families need health insurance, and CHIP plays a vital role in helping working families afford the high cost of insuring their children,” Averitt said. “I appreciate the support of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the members of the Senate Finance Committee who joined with me in recognizing that CHIP restoration is a fiscally conservative policy of utmost importance to our state.”
A recent report by Every Child Matters indicates that 24.6 percent of children in Texas are uninsured. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children (1,244,000) in the nation and there are more uninsured children in Texas than in 26 other states combined.
For each dollar the state invests in CHIP, the federal government provides about $2.60 in matching funds. This federal match is considerably higher than the federal match provided for other programs, such as Medicaid, which pulls down $1.56.
While serving in the Texas House of Representatives in 1999, Averitt sponsored Senate Bill 445, which created CHIP. During the design and debate of SB445, Averitt’s efforts on behalf of CHIP were instrumental in winning Republican support for the program. SB445 used money from the tobacco settlement to pull down federal dollars and fund CHIP.
During the 78th Session’s budget cuts, Averitt worked to maximize the legislative appropriation dedicated to CHIP. During the 79th Session, Averitt filed SB59, which would have fully restored the program, and he amended an essential budget bill to include 12-month eligibility, but neither of those bills successfully passed the Legislature.