“Rep. Barbara Comstock and her do-nothing Republican Congress haven’t just failed to pass healthcare reform, they have also failed to renew a program that covers tens of thousands of Virginia children.” said DCCC spokesperson Jacob Peters. “The inability of Comstock and Washington Republicans to govern is risking the health and financial security of thousands of Virginia families.”
Richmond Times Dispatch: Virginia preparing for breakup of children’s insurance program; thousands in Va. could lose health coverage if Congress doesn’t act
As Congress remains idle over the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Virginia last week began the process of unwinding a program that insures 65,000 children and 1,100 pregnant women in the state.
The Department of Medical Assistance Services, or DMAS, has to be ready by the beginning of December so it can give families at least 60 days notice that their children will no longer be covered by the program when money runs out at the end of January.
“Congress is acting as if it’s just a matter of when the money runs out, and they’re not acknowledging the work and the investment that states have to make in trying to do this in the least chaotic way possible,” said Linda Nablo, DMAS’ chief deputy director.
Amidst wrangling over repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Congress did not meet a deadline to renew the program, often called CHIP, that has previously enjoyed bipartisan support.
Unless state lawmakers decide to pick up the multimillion-dollar tab, thousands in Virginia will lose coverage.
The result would look would like this: A child with asthma who loses health insurance will have nothing to prevent future asthmatic episodes and will almost certainly end up in the emergency room, said Dr. Richard Bennett, a local pediatrician at Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital.
“The coverage that would have cost a few dollars to hundreds of dollars will now cost a family thousands to tens of thousands of dollars,” Bennett said.
The ripples would expand from there. The child would likely miss school and parents would then miss work, placing their employment at risk while they grapple with a mountain of medical debt.
And, Bennett asks, what about kids with diabetes? What about kids with cancer?
“Any chronically ill patient is going to have the same story,” he said. “What means anything if you don’t have health?”
That scenario is on the brink of morphing into reality. The federal government stopped funding CHIP on Sept. 30, at the end of the fiscal year. Now, states like Virginia are running on leftover funds — if they have anything leftover in the first place.
At least 32 states expect to run out of money for the program by early spring, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Both the House and the Senate contain similar bills that would extend CHIP by five years, but there’s no debate or vote scheduled on either yet.
Nablo said it seems more likely a decision will come — if it comes at all — after Thanksgiving. That means Virginia will be down to the wire, because Nablo’s department plans to send out letters to families on Dec. 1 if the program really will end Jan. 31.
There are few options available to these families should they lose coverage, said Margaret Nimmo Holland, executive director of the advocacy group Voices for Virginia’s Children. They likely cannot get an employer-sponsored insurance plan or sign up for a plan on the federal exchange, on which premiums have been skyrocketing recently.
“These families don’t have other options,” she said.