It has now been nearly three months since the federal government allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — which provides health coverage for 9 million lower-income children, including 400,000 kids who are covered by ARKids — to lapse.
The program requires Congress to periodically extend funding. While Republicans in Congress sprint to pass their tax giveaway to the wealthy with three-alarm-emergency speed, they have shown less urgency on a health care program that millions of kids depend on. It appears increasingly likely that the issue will remain unresolved until next calendar year, potentially putting access to care for children who need it in jeopardy. Oddly, Republicans insist the nation can’t afford to fund CHIP unless other social services are cut — at the same time that it is ramming through a tax cut that will add at least a trillion dollars to the national debt.
Though some states have had to rely on emergency federal funding, thus far no state has been forced to stop services because of the funding shortfall. But the longer that Congress drags its feet, the greater the risk becomes for families reliant on CHIP: A Kaiser Family Foundation report found that three quarters of states would be out of CHIP funds by March, including sixteen slated to run out by the end of January. A number of states have begun sending out notifications about potential coverage reductions. (Arkansas has a little more breathing rom; funding for ARKids would be projected to run out in June.)
Here’s more on the value of CHIP in Arkansas via Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
UPDATE: The human costs of congressional inaction could begin very soon: Alabama announced today that as of Jan. 1, it will no longer enroll new kids in its very successful CHIP program, ALL Kids, because of the funding lapse.
Newly elected Sen. Doug Jones immediately made funding CHIP a priority in his victory speech.