CHIP Health Plan for Working Families

Do you earn too much money to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough money to pay for private health insurance for your kids? Based on certain income requirements, kids and pregnant women may be qualified for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”). Currently, there are approximately 400,00 Texas kids and pregnant women enrolled in CHIP. Health care services in Texas include prescriptions and post-partum care.

CHIP was created in 1997. Texas adopted the program a couple of years later and since then, over one million children have been enrolled in the health insurance plan and able to obtain proper medical treatment.  For a child to be eligible for CHIP, a family of two can earn income up to 200% of the federal poverty level, around $32,000 a year or $2,666 a month.  According to a July 2017 article in the Business Insider, the average monthly rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Houston, Texas is $1,088.  After paying rent, there is not much money to cover food, clothing, utilities and transportation, much less private health insurance premiums. CHIP is crucial for low-income working-class families.

On September 30, 2017, Congress failed to renew the authorization for CHIP funding. There is limited hope that six months worth of federal CHIP funding may be authorized prior to the holiday break, however, this would cover October 2017 through March 2018.  If Congress fails to authorize temporary funding, states will fund CHIP without their federal partner.  According to recent reports, Texas only has funds to keep CHIP active until February 2018 in the event the federal government chooses to discontinue the program.

Have an ARD Meeting Soon? Be Prepared.

In the next week weeks, many parents of children who receive special education services under the federal IDEA Act will be invited to their child’s public school to attend an Admission, Review and Dismissal (“ARD”) meeting.

At this meeting, the ARD team will review the current Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) for the student and propose recommendations for the child’s education plan –

To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. – IDEA (§300.1) 

At the ARD meeting, parents can agree or disagree with some or all of the proposals. If there is a disagreement with the proposed IEP, the ARD team can take a recess, negotiate terms, and reconvene (in ten days typically).

Preparing for such a meeting can be stressful for parents based on fear and anxiety for possibly failing your child by not protecting their rights or not demanding proper education services.

Parents who are engaged with the IEP process can find success by reading up on the following:

  • school records (including daily reports),
  • assessments from school and private sources (and knowing which new assessments should be requested), and
  • education laws.

U.S. Supreme Court provides guidance in the recent  Endrew F.  case that a student offered an educational program providing “merely more than de minimis” progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all, setting the floor for the application of the holding in the Rowley case that the school must confer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.

At the ARD meeting, show up with your questions and notes and if you are considering agreeing to a new service or the removal of a service that you are not comfortable with but are willing to try out the situation temporarily, agree to try it out and have a follow-up meeting in a month to re-assess the situation. Under IDEA, the ARD meeting can occur annually or a often as needed allowing a parent to request a meeting in writing.

Take your time at the ARD, listen to suggestions, and stay on track with your goals for the meeting.

More Children in Need, Less Resources?

Although the Center for Disease Control issued their assessment in 2014 that 1 in 68 school-aged children are on the Autism spectrum, federal funding for the care of these Americans is in jeopardy. A person diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or diagnosed with any of the many other related conditions may qualify to receive disability-related Medicaid benefits.

Analysis from Avalere predicts that Medicaid, which provides supports and services to  disabled children and adults, could see a reduction funding of up to $215 billion should the Graham-Cassidy bill be passed.

Three Republican senators and all Democratic senators vowed to vote against the latest attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, stalling the vote. The effort to change healthcare laws is not over. Parents and advocates of children and adults with special needs must get educated and involved in the healthcare debate. The Affordable Care Act has many problems that need to be addressed, but if you or a loved one is the recipient of Medicaid benefits, speak out to block a disaster and offer a solution.

Temporary Extension of Medicaid for Certain IDD Waiver Program Recipients

Parents of Children with Special Needs –

Once your child with special needs comes off a Medicaid Waiver Program list, or becomes eligible for SSI on his or her own, it is of great importance to keep your child’s eligibility for benefits. If SSI is denied or lost, so is Medicaid.

Under certain circumstances, a SSI and Medicaid recipient who loses such benefits may be allowed to temporarily continue to be Medicaid eligible.

To review eligibility terms, click

HHC Texas Information Letter


Thinking of Protesting in Texas – Beware of the Proposed New House Bill

As many peaceful public protests are being held around the United States, we have recently witnessed tragedy can strike.  The 1st Amendment protects citizens’ rights to peacefully protest, with the limitations that the government can regulate the time, place, and manner in which the protest is conducted. See United States Supreme Court case Ward v. Rock Against Racism

How else might the government weaken the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters? On July 20th, prior to the horrific events at Charlottesville, Texas Representative Pat Fallon filed proposed legislation to protect motorists who hit demonstrators “blocking traffic in a public right-of-way” if the driver exercises “due care.”

As currently drafted, House Bill 250 would would not lessen criminal penalties for deadly hit-and-runs; however, an injured protester, who was found by a court to have been blocking traffic, would be unable to recover damages in a civil suit against a driver who was found by a court of law to have “exercised due care.”

Sec. 72A.001. INJURY TO PROTESTOR [sic]. (a) A person operating a motor vehicle who injures another person with the motor vehicle is not liable for the injury if, at the time of the injury:
(1) the person operating the motor vehicle was exercising due care; and
(2) the person injured was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way while participating in a protest or demonstration.
(b) This section does not affect a person’s liability for an injury caused by grossly negligent conduct.

This proposed bill will indirectly dilute the 1st Amendment protections of citizens by curtailing their ability to recover damages in the event of a civil lawsuit for medical treatment for fractures, amputations, traumatic brain injuries injury, spinal cord injury, and compensation  for rehabilitation, lost income, scarring and disfigurement, pain and suffering.  Currently in Texas, we have a type of comparative negligence law for cases involving pedestrians injured by drivers. Texas law allows pedestrian victims to recover for the proportion of fault not assigned to the plaintiff. Texas Rep. Fallon’s proposed bill would take the current law regarding injuries to pedestrians and apply a zero-liability result for drivers when their victims are participants of a demonstration.


Where Are Our Special Education Teachers?

I recently visited a popular job posting site and conducted a search for Special Education Teacher jobs in Houston, Texas. The results were amazing – 221 jobs in Houston waiting to be filled.  Why so many? Has the general population not realized the growing need for qualified people to care for our children?  Are our SpEd teachers burnt out from the extreme demands placed on them and have moved on? As I prepare to send my son back to school next week, I am relieved to know that his SpEd teacher is still at our school, but what about other schools in Texas?

In December 2015, the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) was replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”) with goals set to ensure students not only graduate from high school, but also attend college.  In order for this federal Act to succeed, states are encouraged to be innovative accountable for results.  According to their website, the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) will attempt to fully implement ESSA by focusing on four goals: (i) improving our low-performing schools; (ii) tying high school success to a future with college and a career; (iii) getting back to basic reading and math; and most importantly (iv) “recruiting, supporting and retaining teachers and principals.”

As a parent of a child with special needs, your voice should be heard during this planning process.  Provide feedback on the key policy decisions concerning your child’s education. We need keep our SpEd teachers from leaving their professions by paying these teachers proper compensation for all that they do every day with our kids. We need to attract additional skilled professionals and paraprofessionals.

ACT NOW – The Texas Education Agency is now accepting comments on the ESSA State Plan until August 29th.

Senate Vote Texas Vouchers for School


All your work from years of ARD meetings, IEPs, and lawsuits will disappear once your student receiving special education services from public school uses vouchers for private school education. Private schools are not forced to follow the laws protecting your child’s education rights.

Click here to listen to the call from Filis Law Firm’s managing attorney Leona Filis to Pacifica Radio encouraging Texans to call their senators and tell them to vote NO to public school vouchers.

This segment was taken from the 7/24/2017 broadcast found at

The Texas School Voucher proposal passed 19-12 in the state senate. The next step is the Texas House.  Please contact your representatives.

COPAA alert about Medicaid and Students with Disabilities

As a parent with a child with autism and ADHD, I find myself joining many groups for parents of children with special needs. One such group is COPAA – Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. From time to time, I receive notifications and articles from COPAA discussing pending legislation that could potentially impact my family. Below I am sharing such a notification/alert.


Protecting the Legal and Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities and their Families

(Please feel free to share this alert)


Dear Leona:

The U.S. Senate is currently negotiating a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. There is support in the Senate to follow the House and reduce federal Medicaid spending by 25 percent by distributing Medicaid funds through a block-grant or a per-capita cap, which would shift costs to states and cut Medicaid by $4 billion each year! COPAA has advocated against these cuts and we need you to act with us.
Medicaid and Students with Disabilities

Medicaid permits payment to schools for certain medically necessary services provided to children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) through an individualized education plan (IEP) or individualized family service plan (IFSP). Schools are eligible to be reimbursed for direct medical services to Medicaid eligible students with an IEP or IFSP. In addition, districts can be reimbursed by Medicaid for providing Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment Benefits (EPSDT), which provides Medicaid eligible children under age 21 with health screening, diagnosis and treatment services such as vision, hearing and more. Many schools and districts rely on Medicaid to provide services and to pay for certain personnel (e.g. school nurse, aides); to purchase and update specialized equipment; and to purchase and/or provide assistive technology and items needed for each child to access the school curriculum alongside their peers


Visit our Medicaid in Schools page to learn more.


Please reach out to your Senators today! 

U.S. House Bill for Students with Visual and Hearing Challenges

Last month the 115th Congress was introduced to H. R 1120 called Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act by  Pennsylvania Representative Matthew Cartwright.

Representative Cartwright previously introduced a similar bill in 2015; however, the 2015 bill was not enacted.

H.R.. 1120 focuses on the need to identify children who are deaf-blind, improve early intervention for affected infants and toddlers, and improve services for such children and their families. The proposed legislation would seek to serve children with a disability who is deaf or hard of hearing, with speech.  This eligibility language could be more inclusive than states’ definitions of disability.

Click here for the text of H.R. 1120.

Merely More than De Minimis is NOT the Standard – Endrew F. – U.S. Supreme Court Special Education Case

This week, many families with children with special needs celebrated the United States Supreme Court ruling in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District.  The Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) protects children with disabilities through a mandate that each eligible student receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), by means of a uniquely tailored individualized education program (“IEP”).  In this case, the Court found that student Endrew F.  failed to receive an appropriate public education.  Special Education and related services are to be provided so that the student may advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals from the IEP, and when possible, be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.

The Court noted in its opinion that at age two, Endrew F. was diagnosed with autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder generally marked by impaired social and communication skills, “engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.”  With this diagnosis, Endrew F. was eligible to receive special education services. Endrew F.’s parents were dissatisfied with the public school’s inability to provide and IEP different from any of the IEPs for the past few years. With no satisfactory results from the school district, Endrew F.’s parents withdrew him from school and enrolled Endrew in a private school that specializes in educating children with autism, where Endrew excelled.

Endrew F.’s parents sued the school district for failure to provide an appropriate public education for Endrew F.  The Supreme Court noted that a IEP is unique for the circumstances of the child for whom it was created.  The standard for the student’s educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, not merely more than de minimis progress from year to year.

Parents and advocates, when you are in attendance at an Admission, Review, and Dismissal meeting (“ARD Meeting”), argue with confidence so that your child to receive an education appropriately ambitious in light of your child’s circumstances.