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Texas has enough federal funds to keep CHIP running through the end of March

Texas now has enough federal money to keep alive a health insurance program for more than 400,000 uninsured kids and pregnant women through the end of March, a state official said Friday.

Dr. Javier Saenz checks the ear of Viviana Escareño, 6, for infection. The young girl’s mother, Claudia Escareño, has brought “Vivi” to Saenz’s clinic since she was born.

Texas now has enough federal money to keep alive its health insurance program for more than 450,000 uninsured kids and pregnant women through the end of March, a state official said on Friday. 

That's true even though the Children's Health Insurance Program technically expired on Sept. 30 after Congress failed to renew funding. Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the state Health and Human Services Commission, said Texas can keep the program afloat thanks to $248 million in funding allocated through a short-term spending bill passed by Congress last month. 

The news, first reported by The Dallas Morning News, comes less than a month after Texas Health and Human Services Commission officials announced that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was giving the state $135 million to continue the program through February.

Williams said in an e-mail that the $135 million now won't be immediately needed because of the December spending bill. 

 "If Congress does not fully reauthorize CHIP by [the end of March], Texas would pursue redistribution funding as it did previously with CMS," Williams said.

Under CHIP, the uninsured rate among children across the country has dropped from 15 percent in 1997 to 5 percent in 2015. The program also offers prenatal care to about 36,000 pregnant women in Texas. About 394,000 Texas children ineligible for Medicaid are covered under CHIP, and another 249,000 Texan children on Medicaid benefit from CHIP’s 92 percent matching rate. Together, Medicaid and CHIP cover about 45 percent of all children in the state.

"This is good news in the short term, but Congress needs to get moving on a clean, 5-year CHIP extension as soon as possible,"  said Anne Dunkelberg, associate director for the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities, in an emailed statement. "The health of over 400,000 Texas kids depends on it,"

State officials submitted a request with the federal government on Nov. 16 for an extra $90 million to support CHIP in the state until February.

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

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