Ninety thousand Missouri children and 80,000 in Kansas are at risk of losing their health insurance if Congress does not act before the end of September to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.
CHIP was created by Congress in 1997 specifically for uninsured children in moderate- to low-income working families who are not eligible for Medicaid. CHIP builds on the Medicaid program with some key differences. Unlike Medicaid, CHIP is a block grant with each state receiving an allocation of funds that is capped. In addition, the federal government matches state funding for CHIP at a higher rate than Medicaid. And while the health benefits in Medicaid and CHIP are essentially identical and provide children with all medically necessary screenings and treatment, one key difference between traditional Medicaid and CHIP is that families with children in the CHIP program are required to pay premiums to access services.
CHIP is Medicaid’s small but mighty partner. Since it was enacted, the rate of uninsured children has been cut by more than half — just under 6 percent in Missouri and Kansas. When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, they extended CHIP through 2019. Funding for the program, however, ends in less than a month on Sept. 30 with the consequence that, unless Congress acts, both Missouri and Kansas will run out of funding for this highly successful children’s health insurance program in just a few months.
Medicaid and CHIP are key sources of coverage for children in the region, covering nearly one in four of them overall. Children with special health care needs are covered at an even higher rate of about 44 percent. The loss of CHIP funding would result in fewer of the region’s children accessing needed care, including preventive services such as well child visits and immunizations. There are also long-term negative consequences that research suggests include lower educational attainment and financial well-being for children that do not have access to necessary health care services.
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With instability in the ACA marketplaces, renewal of CHIP funding is more important than ever, especially for children with acute or medically complex conditions like asthma or diabetes, those with developmental delays or those who need habilitative services.
You could fill Kauffman Stadium more than four times with the number of children in Kansas and Missouri who will lose access to vital health care services if Congress does not act.
Fortunately, programs that benefit children are supported by members of both parties. Extending CHIP funding is a win for both Republicans and Democrats, but most importantly, it is a win for children and families in Kansas City.
Judy Dungan is director of policy and advocacy for the Missouri Children’s Leadership Council.