More than nine million children nationwide are at risk of losing their health insurance if Congress fails to reauthorize funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
CHIP covers 8.9 million children from working families with low and moderate incomes who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford or access private coverage on their own.
The program has been instrumental in lowering the percentage of uninsured children from nearly 14 percent when it started in 1997 to 4.5 percent in 2015.
The program is paid for with state and federal funds, but the federal government covers close to 90 percent of the cost. Funding for CHIP ran out on Sept. 30 and since then, Congress has failed to reauthorize it.
According to a new report released Wednesday, two million kids could be dropped from coverage next month.
"A new analysis by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found that if Congress does not act soon to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), an estimated 1.9 million children in separate CHIP programs could lose coverage in January. An additional 1 million children would also be at risk of losing coverage by the end of February."
"It's really frustrating that they're playing politics with my children's health insurance."
On January 2, Alabama will stop allowing new children to enroll in its CHIP program. Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Utah and Colorado have all issued warnings they shutter the program on January 31if the federal government doesn’t approve funding.
Families in Alabama and Pennsylvania have already reported receiving FAQ forms in the mail warning them that their children could soon their lose health insurance.
Holly Keich, a mother of two children covered by CHIP in Pennsylvania, says she feels like lawmakers are playing politics with her children's health.
"To let it go to this point where families are getting letters saying they may not have insurance is crazy," she says. "It's supposed to be a bipartisan program is what I keep hearing and that they're all supportive. Both my congressmen, one a Republican one a Democrat, both are saying they agree with the program and it should be refunded. So it's really frustrating that they're playing politics with my children's health insurance."
Kesha Williams says the Alabama's All Kids program has covered her childrens' health insurance since she lost her job. Losing it she says, would leave more than just the children covered at risk.
"Parents won't be able to afford to take their kids to the doctor," she says. "They'll come to school to sick and spread their illness around."
On Wednesday, Democrats urged Republicans in Congress to pass new funding for CHIP before the Christmas break.
According to NBC News, Brenda Lawrence, Vice Chair of the Democratic Women's Working Group, accused Republicans of of using "CHIP as a pawn in year-end negotiations and holding millions of children and desperate families hostage."
"Republicans, put the coal back in your pocket," Lawrence said, "and let's give America a gift for Christmas."
However by Wednesday afternoon Republican senators Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander confirmed the GOP won't deal with the program before the break.
Senate Republicans are doing nothing to address the fact that millions of children are only weeks or months away from losing #CHIP coverage. It’s shameful to lavish tax giveaways on wealthy donors while claiming children’s access to the most basic medical care is too expensive.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) December 20, 2017
So Collins and Alexander confirm that CHIP, a program that gives health care to 9m kids and whose money expired in Sept, won’t be renewed this year. Maybe next year.— Sam Stein (@samstein) December 20, 2017
9 million klids.
Going into 2017:— Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) December 20, 2017
Most Americans didn’t know what CHIP was until the GOP decided not to pass it; weren’t focused on Medicaid until the GOP tried to slash it; and thought pre-existing condition protections were safe until the GOP tried to end them.
It’s different now.