El Paso sees rise in Medicaid/CHIP signups

MGN Online

POSTED: Sunday, July 20, 2014 - 9:17pm

UPDATED: Monday, July 21, 2014 - 1:33pm

It has been nine months since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

El Paso County is seeing a rise in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, applicants even though Texas republicans decided not to expand eligibility.

The Department of Health and Human Services said more than 80,000 Texans have signed up for Medicaid since the ACA took effect last fall.

That's a 1.8% increase from last year.

Local groups say thousands of families are among them.

Currently, El Paso County ranks as one of the most uninsured counties in the state.

Eduardo Favela's children were once a part of that statistic.

Now, they're enrolled in the CHIP.

They actually went for a few physicals already. They went twice already," said Favela.

“We have enrolled well over 4,000 people, just our own agency," said Roy Ortega, spokesperson for local agency Project Amistad.

He said they have signed up thousands of El Pasoans for CHIP and Medicaid, which is a number that's rising.

“Medicaid and CHIP are a vital part of the services and referrals that we provide here at this agency,” said Ortega.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 874,000 Texans are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP but have not enrolled.

Ortega said many actually find out when they come in looking to sign up for insurance through the president's Affordable Care Act.

"In the process of going through the enrollment, we have learned that a lot of them are not aware that they can actually apply to receive Medicaid and CHIP benefits," he said.

As we've reported, Texas Governor Rick Perry chose not to expand access to the programs.

Ortega said that's had local consequences.

“Because of the fact that the state did not choose to expand Medicaid, many more people fell between the cracks,” said Ortega. “Those are the folks that don't make a sufficient amount of income throughout the year to get the services and benefits under Obamacare.”

Perry has said he wants more state-specific reforms for Medicaid, rather than federal reforms.

Politics aside, Eduardo said he's just happy his family is now covered.

"We were unable to afford it, that's what the problem is,” he said.
The numbers place Texas in the middle of the pack among states that chose not to expand access to Medicaid and CHIP to everyone below the federal poverty line as the president wanted.

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