Without the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Crystal Lett and her Columbus-area family wouldn’t be able to afford the care her six-year-old son needs for Prader-Willi Syndrome, a complex genetic condition that affects many parts of the body.
Although Republicans and Democrats alike say they want to continue the program that insures roughly 9 million low- to moderate-income children nationwide, it ran out of money in September as Congress bickered over how it should be funded.
Children’s health care advocates in Ohio want Congress to pass a long-term fix that won’t throw state budgets off kilter or jeopardize insurance coverage for kids like Lett’s son, Noble, when a temporary continuation of CHIP expires on Jan. 19.
“If Congress fails to reauthorize CHIP and kicks the can down the road, parents and children all across the state of Ohio will feel the impact,” said Edward M. Barksdale Jr., the chief surgeon at UH/Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.
Nick Lashutka, President and CEO of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, said approximately 53 percent of patients seen at Ohio’s children’s hospitals are on Medicaid and CHIP, and failure to reauthorize the program puts their health insurance at risk.
Without CHIP, the Letts might have to discontinue therapy services for their son or lose their house, Lett told reporters on Friday, a choice she said would be “impossible.”
Failure to renew the program would also force Ohio to make difficult choices on how to cover the state’s roughly 200,000 enrollees, said Greg Moody, who heads Gov. John Kasich’s health transformation office. Moody said the state won’t end the program or freeze enrollment, and would instead fund the program by moving money from elsewhere in the state budget. Each month the state does that would cost $15 million, said Moody.
Other states will run out of money at varying rates, and some will pare back their coverage,” said Mark Wietecha, President and CEO of the Children’s Hospital Association.
A new Congressional Budget Office estimate that says reauthorizing the program will save the government money has fed hopes that the program could be renewed as early as next week, either as an independent bill, or as part of a broader government funding measure.
Lashutka said the longer the impasse lasts, the more problems it will cause, especially in a state like Ohio, where so many hospitals see patients from other states who have CHIP as their health insurance.
“Our message is simple,” said Lashutka. “Stop holding children hostage by failing to reauthorize CHIP. It is creating challenges for the state of Ohio and creating anxiety for our families.”