Relief for Families: After More Than 110 Days, Congress Extends CHIP
On Monday, January 22, 2018, Congress passed and President Trump signed an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that is set to last six years. This brings relief to millions of families across the country. Other than its first 10-year authorization, this is the longest amount of time parents will be able to count on CHIP being there for their kids.
This six-year extension of CHIP passed in the short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) spending bill. CHIP funding expired on September 30, 2017, more than 110 days earlier – parents, kids, and pregnant women have been worried ever since. We are pleased to know that their anxiety and fears about losing critical health coverage have ended.
On December 19, 2017, the First Focus Campaign for Children brought eight families, 10 parents and 15 children, to Washington, DC, for a congressional briefing about CHIP. They came from seven different states: Colorado, Kentucky, New York, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The kids’ ages ranged from under-two-years-old to 18. They came in from big cities, medium size cities, rural areas, and small towns. They traveled during the holiday season, with some of the kids missing a day or two of school, and facing blizzards on their return home. One young man, a high school student, stayed back in Texas to take finals while his mother made the journey to Washington. Although each family came from a different place geographically, with a different-sized family and medical history, they had one thing in common: their support for CHIP.
Christina and her sweet toddler daughter came from upstate New York and shared their experiences about heart surgeries, hospital stays, and ongoing health monitoring. Christina said that CHIP is not only a health benefit to their family, but provides financial relief from the high cost of co-pays and deductibles when a child needs extensive care.
Sonja, a mother from Utah, came with two of her children who both live with a chronic illness, leaving her other children back home with their father for a few days. She spoke about how CHIP covers the life-dependent treatment her children with Crohn’s disease need. Both children receive an immuno-suppressant infusion every eight weeks. Each treatment can cost up to $10,000. Without CHIP, she would be forced to give up her income, either to qualify for Medicaid to provide their treatments, or to pay more than her income for their health care costs.
As Sonja said, “This is not a situation that any American family should be in; we should not have to give up our incomes to keep our children alive.”
Jessica and Ryan, parents who traveled from northern Wisconsin, talked about how CHIP made sure their three kids not only got their well-child exams, but helped with supportive services like behavioral health and needed medicine.
Cailin McDonald, a 16-year-old girl from rural Kentucky told the Hill audience how CHIP and Medicaid have helped her family during times of need, and how the programs have made it possible for her parents to do the jobs they love.
De’Andrea came to DC for the first time from a small town in Texas to advocate for the coverage her teenage son needs to maintain his health and cover the cost of his prescriptions. Her words were full of gratefulness and hope for the future of CHIP.
These families along with three others expressed fear and worry about the delays in CHIP funding. They knew that their stories were essential to the debate and had hoped to see CHIP funding extended in the CR that passed on December 21. When that didn’t happen, we stayed in touch with them and referred reporters to them when news coverage intensified.
They told their stories again and again, hoping their words and pleas would make the difference to congress to fund CHIP quickly.
I checked in with the eight families Monday afternoon. “Yay!” and “What a relief!” were the most common responses I received when I told them about the CR.
As a mom from West Virginia, AmyJo, said yesterday, “The stress of not knowing what was going to happen, along with knowing there were 48,000 children in my state of West Virginia whose parents were under the same mental stress, was exhausting.”
The best part of Monday was knowing that these families and millions more like them don’t have to worry now. CHIP is funded for six years. Parents can count on their children’s enrollment in their state CHIP plan, or apply if they have been putting it off because they wondered about CHIP’s future. We encourage families to make any medical appointments they may have put off, to continue to pay their CHIP premiums, and to enroll if they think they have a child who might be eligible for CHIP.
It’s about time CHIP was funded, and finally, we and millions and millions of families feel relief.