Despite Dire Predictions, CHIP Moves Forward

State enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is on the rise, but funding may soon be down.

CHIP is a federally-funded program that provides affordable health insurance for low income children. Unlike medicaid, CHIP is for working parents without health coverage. The U.S. Congress gives money for every state CHIP program. But there's one catch. Any dollars not used, go back into the federal pot.

Texas faces that dilemma right now.

Two years ago, Congress gave Texas more than $500 million for its CHIP program. When Texas reached its spending deadline in 2001, the state had $285 million leftover. Now the money is fair game, and the federal government can take it back.

Nick Sciarrini, with the Smith County Public Health District, says the funding issue is not as dire as it may seem.

"I think there's going to be an attempt to keep federal funds going up for distribution in Texas," says Sciarrini. "

Sciarrini says Chip is still recruiting families. More than 7,000 families are enrolled in Gregg and Smith Counties combined.

For now, CHIP recruiters remain hopeful. Two years ago, 40 states had unused CHIP funds, and the government let the states keep part of their allotments.

In January, state legislators will address the Chip funding issue when the 78th Legislative Session begins.

Until then, Sciarrini says parents who qualify for CHIP, should go ahead and apply.

"I don't think this problem is going to impact us at this point in time," says Sciarrini.