Picture this: you’re 18 years old, about to graduate from high school and launch into the world.
To save money, you’ll start out at a local community college, but you’ve got big dreams that include transferring to a four-year university and then going on to medical school. You don’t want anything to derail your plans, so that means getting a long-acting, effective method of birth control.
The good news is that you have health insurance! Your parents both work hard, but neither of their jobs come with benefits. Fortunately, you qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Your mom takes you to your regular OB/Gyn, the one you’ve been seeing since you turned 16. Nobody enjoys those types of visits, but this doctor makes things easier — she’s funny, she seems to really care about you, and she’s good at making you feel comfortable. You trust her.
When you and your mom explain to the doctor that you’re interested in getting birth control that will last several years, the doctor takes time to explain your options, and together you decide that an IUD sounds right for you.
But then she checks your chart and her face falls.
“You’re on CHIP,” she says. “And in Texas, CHIP doesn’t usually cover birth control.”
She goes on to tell you that there’s another program called Family Planning that may help, but the only clinic in your county ran out of their funds for the year, and it may be several months before they can get you in. Instead, she sets you up with a prescription for birth control pills, but you’ll have to pay out of pocket for those — and if your vitamins are any indication, you don’t feel confident that you’ll remember to take them every day.
You leave discouraged, and you can’t help feeling like Texas isn’t looking out for you.
That’s the scenario facing tens of thousands of teens who are covered by CHIP in Texas. Along with North Dakota, Texas is one of just two states in the nation that doesn’t fully cover birth control in the CHIP program.
This leaves Texas teens at risk of unintended pregnancy just as they should be launching into adulthood. In fact, data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission shows that of girls enrolled in CHIP in 2018, nearly 1,600 of them experienced a pregnancy by the next year.
Of course, that also costs the state money. All of those pregnancies are eligible for coverage through Pregnant Women’s Medicaid, and the teens’ babies are eligible for Medicaid coverage as well. In fact, in the last legislative session, a bill that would add birth control as a benefit in the CHIP program was estimated to lead to significant cost savings for Texas by preventing teen births.
The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is working hard to make sure all Texas teens, including those on CHIP, are able to access birth control. You can read all about it in the research report we released this week, available at www.txcampaign.org/CHIP. If you’re interested in raising your voice in support of Texas teens, register for our virtual Advocacy in Action week at www.txcamapign.org/action.