Rio Grande Valley residents who qualify for health coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program will have a new option when it comes to selecting a service plan in the fall.

Driscoll Health Plan, a non-profit health insurance company based out of Corpus Christi, was awarded a contract to provide CHIP services in the Hidalgo Service Area which includes Hidalgo, Starr, Cameron, and Willacy Counties, according to a news release issued Friday.

The Texas CHIP program provides healthcare to medium to low-income children and pregnant women who are not eligible for Medicaid.

This is the first time the company will begin offering CHIP services in the area, said Dr. Ernest Buck, Medical Director of Driscoll Health Plan. However, the company has been providing services in the area through Star Medicaid since 2012 and Star Kids since 2016.

It was for the fall of this year that contract to offer CHIP in the area became open again, Buck said.

After a “competitive” bidding process, Driscoll and Molina Healthcare, a company based out of California, were awarded the contract.

“It was a fairly extensive bidding process and I suspect that historical performance of the various managed care plans in the state had something to do with who won the bids,” Buck said.

The two companies will cover the estimated 36,000 children currently enrolled in the CHIP program in the service area. In September, those current enrollees will have to select an insurance plan from those two companies.

“We know that people who are insured tend to seek medical care more quickly and avoid delaying care which makes them more likely to get admitted into the hospital or to have a worse outcome,” Buck said of the importance of the insurance coverage. “So being insured is good for your health.”