Today Texas law requires that a child must be without private health coverage for 90 days prior to enrolling in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as a CHIP waiting period. Once a child is found otherwise eligible for CHIP, they must wait to enroll for three months after the last month they had private health coverage. There are exemptions to the CHIP waiting period required by Texas statute and federal standards.
When CHIP was created in 1997, waiting periods were established by many states to help reduce “crowd out,” or the substitution of CHIP for private health insurance. However, recent changes in federal policies and required processes have caused 21 states to eliminate their CHIP waiting periods. Currently, 33 states do not impose waiting periods and 6 states impose them only in higher income brackets.
Two bills filed during the 84th Regular Legislative Session propose changes to the waiting period for CHIP in Texas. H.B. 1339, by Representative Roland Gutierrez, proposes to reduce the waiting period to 30 days. S.B. 847 by Senator José Rodriguez and Senator Judith Zaffirini, eliminates the waiting period altogether.
A new CPPP brief covers the basics of the laws, policy, and effects of the CHIP waiting period on Texan children. The brief identifies the costs to the state and risks to children which result from requiring a CHIP waiting period.
Reducing the waiting period to 30 days only shortens the window before eligible children can enroll in CHIP. Children are still left without affordable health care coverage during that month and this approach does nothing to eliminate the administrative complexities and costs of maintaining the waiting period.
Based on the cost to the state, risks for children, and lack of compelling evidence of the effectiveness of the policy, CPPP and the Texas CHIP Coalition support eliminating the waiting period altogether.