In an unconscionable act of negligence, the U.S. Congress allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program to expire on Sept. 30. CHIP provides low-cost insurance to 9 million children around the country whose family income is too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to access insurance in the private market.
The 20-year-old program covers doctor visits, routine checkups, immunizations, prescription drugs, and optical and dental care. Coupled with the sustained assaults on the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has delivered another blow to struggling families who too often must decide between food on the table and medical care.
According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, all states have expanded coverage to children through CHIP. They have created a separate insurance program, are using CHIP funds to expand Medicaid or a combination of both. As a result, nearly all states provide health insurance to children in families with incomes up to at least 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $40,840 for a family of three.
As a result of Congress’ inaction, more than half the states are expected to run out of CHIP funds by the end of April, including New York, where 310,557 children rely on the CHIP-funded Child Health Plus. New York City receives $400 million in Child Health Plus funds, and without it, 119,066 children will lose health insurance.
If Congress doesn’t act, elected officials here in New York City and around the state will no doubt look for ways to continue the program on their own, but it would be extremely difficult to shoulder the costs. Our hope is that Congress comes to its senses and renews this important program before those kinds of tough decisions have to be made.