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July 23, 1998     (512) 463-0300

LEGISLATORS DISCUSS HEALTH INSURANCE FOR YOUNG TEXANS

AUSTIN - Members of the Senate Interim Committee on Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) met in a joint hearing on Thursday, July 23, with members of the House Public Health and House Appropriations committees in order to discuss the status of health insurance programs available to children. The Senate Committee on CHIP is responsible for looking into the efforts of state health and human services agencies to develop and fund state children's health insurance programs. Senator Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth chairs the Senate Committee on CHIP and members include Senators Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant and Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso.

Thursday's hearing focused on issues relating to the administration and implementation of a proposed Texas CHIP plan which is now in its second phase. The plan outlines the program's principles, eligibility policies, outreach programs, enrollment procedures, accountability measures, and what the role of community-based organizations would be. The plan outlines cost-sharing considerations which would enhance the value of children's health insurance due to the family's financial investment in it. The plan also discusses the use of a purchasing credit system that would give parents a choice in the market for CHIP plans.

The members heard both invited and public testimony from representatives of various agencies, physicians, and concerned Texans regarding the committees' charges. Among those testifying were State Medicaid Director Linda Wertz, HHSC Commissioner Don Gilbert, and Commissioner of Health Reyn Archer. Many witnesses asked the legislators to support a public information campaign that would educate Texans on those children's health care plans that are readily available to those who qualify, such as HealthyKids or Medicaid. Witnesses also encouraged outreach programs that would encourage "preventive medicine" so that parents would get their kids into doctor's offices for yearly checkups.

The committee will hold its next meeting on August 20 in Austin.

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