Effective January 1st, the Texas Vaccine For Children program, or TVCF, has changed what they consider "under-insured."
"But there are many people who have some kind of insurance which may not cover vaccines properly or it doesn't cover enough or only covers certain ones and those people used to be considered under-insured and could qualify for these, in our case, free vaccines," says Vince Priestner, M.D.
According to the government funded program, the "new" definition of under-insured is a child who has private health coverage but does not cover vaccines, a child whose insurance only covers selected vaccines or a child whose insurance caps vaccine coverage at a certain amount.
"So that anyone has any hint of insurance is considered fully insured and whether they can afford it or not, they can't be given the vaccines," Dr. Priestner says.
This comes as a response to reductions in state and federal immunization funds as well as prices for certain vaccines, among other things.
Of officials who made the decision, Dr. Priestner says, "They've been told they have to save a large amount of money. This is an attempt at doing it. And I'm sure they're acting in good faith but it certainly has terrible consequences to the needy people in our community and we certainly have a lot of needy people."
Many of these vaccines are not only extremely costly to those in need, but some are also mandatory for children to remain in school.
"I would hope that the people in Austin can figure some way to find some middle ground. They have taken a severe position and it's hurting people," says Dr. Priestner.
If children are covered by Medicaid or CHIP, they are covered fully and this policy change doesn't affect them. This pertains to all local health departments, DSHS public health clinics and TVCF providers in the state.