By Latoya Beatty, MD, MPH
September 30th, just two days from now, marks the end of federal funding for the State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as NC Health Choice in North Carolina.While North Carolina has funds to keep the program afloat through early 2018, other states will soon begin to send out termination notices if CHIP is not reauthorized very soon. Children who receive their health insurance through CHIP typically have working parents who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford private health insurance and do not qualify for employer-based insurance.
One mom, Leanna George from Johnston County, shared her story before the United States Senate Committee on Finance at a recent hearing on CHIP. Leanna and her husband, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, both work and have two special needs children, one of whom depends on CHIP for his health care. Without CHIP, the George family would be forced to make terrible choices like rationing health care for each family member or cutting back on needed, but expensive medication. This would lead to poorer health outcomes for all members of the family as well as a decline in school performance and overall well-being for their children.
There is good news and bad news regarding the status of CHIP’s renewal. The good news is that Senators Hatch (R) and Wyden (D) announced a bipartisan agreement to extend CHIP. This agreement would protect health insurance coverage for kids, provide peace of mind for families, and provide essential funding for states that have assumed federal CHIP funding in their FY 2018 budgets.
The bad news is that this agreement needs to be pushed over the finish line in a hurry. Until yesterday, Congress was prioritizing a partisan repeal of the Affordable Care Act rather than a bipartisan effort to protect children’s health insurance. We need them to get their priority straight.
We have to act fast and add our voice to this debate. If your family has also benefitted from CHIP, please share your story here. Even if you haven’t directly benefited from CHIP, you can still stand up for children’s health–MomsRising has set up a call number (1-855-440-1800) that will connect people with either Senator Burr’s or Senator Tillis’ offices, so you can voice your support for CHIP. We hope you’ll take action for children’s health today.
Latoya Beatty is the research and policy fellow at NC Child.