*Correction appended

Advocates say Texas will run out of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program sooner than they thought. The program, which Congress failed to reauthorize last month, covers nearly 400,000 children from working-class families in the state.

“It’s expected that Texas will run out of CHIP funding in January,” said Adriana Kohler, a policy associate with the advocacy group Texans Care for Children. “With the holidays coming up in the next few months, we really need Congress to get the job done now.”

Just a few months ago, advocates said it was unclear when the state would run out of CHIP funds. Some advocates expected the state had until next September; others said funds would run out in February.

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Carrie Williams, a spokesperson with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said the funding could run out as early as January.

Williams said the agency pushed up the timeline because of reduced income from co-pays. After Hurricane Harvey hit, the federal government waived co-pays and enrollment fees for CHIP recipients. That meant less money was coming into the program than expected.

"So funds may be exhausted a bit sooner than February," she said.

CHIP covers children in mostly working-class families. These are families who don't get insurance through an employer and are too poor to buy insurance on their own and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. 

Congress was expected to reauthorize the program, which has bipartisan support, when it expired last month. That didn’t happen, and now lawmakers are debating how a renewal will be paid for, which is slowing things down.

Kohler said CHIP pays for a wide range of services for children, including immunizations, eye exams and even cancer treatment, in some cases. So, she said, she’s increasingly concerned about what will happen if legislation extending the program doesn’t get passed soon.

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“The uncertainty is not helpful,” she said. “It’s unclear what will happen. We don’t have information about the timing for unwinding Texas CHIP. We have little concrete information.”

Williams said HHSC is hopeful money will come down before the state runs out. If that doesn't happen, though, she said the agency will have to notify families 30 days before it rolls back the program.

“Every day that goes by, the closer Texas gets to cutting off health care for kids,” Kohler said.

Editor's note: This story originally appeared on KUT News.

Correction: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect spelling for the name of a policy associate at Texans Care for Children. She is Adriana Kohler.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Insurance coverage for more than 400,000 Texas children and pregnant women is in jeopardy after Congress failed to renew authorization for the Children's Health Insurance Program. [Full story]

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