Time Ticks for CHIP Funding Extension Before Funds Run Dry
MCALLEN – The clock is ticking for Congress to renew a program that funds healthcare for thousands of children and teens across the Rio Grande Valley.
More than 298,000 people under the age of 19 in the Valley have health insurance through the federal Children's Health Insurance Program. That number is more than twice the population of the city of McAllen.
CHIP, along with several other healthcare programs, expired 30 days ago. CHIP provides low-cost health care for children whose parents are low-income or middle class.
U.S. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez is one of more than 80 congressmen pushing for a vote to renew CHIP and other programs.
He signed a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan that reads in part:
"This critical program ensures that 9 million children are provided with low-cost health insurance, which covers services such as routine checkups, immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, dental and vision care, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, laboratory and x-ray services, and emergency services."
CHANNEL 5 NEWS caught up with Gonzalez as he left McAllen for Washington, D.C.
"By February, we will not have any funds left to cover health insurance for young people in our district," he said.
Gonzalez said his office has been flooded with calls from concerned constituents.
"Mostly, it's been healthcare providers who are concerned about the people they care for here in their community," he said.
Gonzalez said he's not too worried about Texas children yet. He said there's time for Congress to act before the money runs out here.
However, that's not the case for many other states.
"In 30 days it will start disrupting states in the West and Midwest and eventually it'll impact us," he said.
Here are how the numbers break down by county for children and teens who are on CHIP:
- Cameron - 88,613
- Hidalgo - 189,266
- Starr - 16,096
- Willacy - 4,102
Congressman Vicente Gonzalez's full letter to Speaker Paul Ryan can be read below.