Almost 9 Million Kids Might Lose Their Health Insurance If Congress Doesn'T Fund CHIP
Millions of American women and children rely on CHIP for the health care that they need. However, according to a report by the Washington Post, almost a dozen states are prepping to either dramatically reduce services or drop kids and their families from the insurance program, with five states set to run out of funding by late December — all because Congress can’t get their act together to reauthorize its budget.
What Is CHIP?
CHIP is short for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, created in 1997 under the Balanced Budget Act. The program provides low-cost health insurance to the children of low-income families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, CHIP also covers pregnant women.
What Does CHIP Do?
CHIP provides a stopgap of affordable health insurance for almost 9 million American kids and 370,000 expecting women. Unlike insurance plans provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), families can apply for CHIP at any time of the year. Each state runs its own CHIP program with different sets of qualifications and costs, but it’s funded by the federal government and run in parallel with Medicaid. The program has been credited with reducing the number of uninsured kids to a record low of 4.5 percent.
What's Been Going on with CHIP Funding
Since its inception 30 years ago, CHIP has already been reauthorized several times — but this September 30, Congress let the funding for CHIP expire. It’s largely thought to be due to Congress’s failure just weeks prior to pass a bill that would have repealed and replaced parts of the ACA.
While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to keep CHIP, they disagree about how it should be funded — leading to the current stalemate.
"Many states are preparing to shut down their children’s health programs if Congress doesn’t act soon. That means wait lists, cancellation notices, and kids across the country not being able to see their doctors. Republicans in Congress should act now on our bipartisan bill that would extend critical funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program," Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) tells What to Expect.
States have reserve funding for their CHIP programs for this kind of situation, but many of those reserves are dangerously close to running out within months. Arizona, California, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon and the District of Columbia will run out of CHIP funds by December 31 or early January. Senator Stabenow adds that Michigan, where 100,000 children rely on the state's version of CHIP, could run out of money by the end of January.
At least six more states are preparing to inform parents that their kids may lose coverage due to the loss of funds. Colorado has already sent letters out to CHIP recipients, telling them that if Congress doesn’t authorize more money, the state will run out of funds for the program by January 31.
What This Means for Families
For families who benefit from CHIP and live in states affected by a funding shortfall, the loss of CHIP coverage could have grave effects. More kids without health insurance would mean fewer kids see their pediatricians and get essential health care including well-child visits and vaccines. Developmental and behavioral issues could go undiagnosed, and more kids may very well get sick.
Take a stand by contacting your congressperson and letting him or her know that CHIP needs to be reauthorized today. Take to social media and ask your friends and family to do the same. Congress needs to put their differences aside and re-authorize funding: The health of American kids and women shouldn’t be a game.
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