More than 40,000 Michigan children could be at risk of losing their healthcare coverage if Congress doesn’t act and approve funding to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program. A compromise was reached last Friday between House Democratic and Republican leaders to extend funding for two years with the current policies. While this is not perfect (a four-year funding extension under current policies would have been preferable), it is better than the proposal developed by the House and Senate chairs of the committees responsible for CHIP. The House committee chair is Michigan’s Representative Fred Upton who now will have the opportunity to support the compromise and be a champion for 40,000 Michigan children. If the compromise passes the House, efforts are expected in the Senate to strengthen the funding extension to four years under current policies.
The CHIP program in Michigan is called MIChild. This program provides peace of mind to parents by enabling them to take their children to the doctor for their well-child visits and immunizations or obtain needed medications when their children are sick or seek other needed medical attention.
The program was established in 1997 to provide healthcare coverage for children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid and too low to afford private coverage. The program has enjoyed great success and the MIChild program, in addition to Medicaid, are credited with the high level of coverage for children in Michigan, about 96% as reported in the recent Kids Count report.
Federal funding is provided only through September 30, 2015. If Congress does not act, Michigan stands to lose more than $100 million in federal funds, while families stand to lose coverage for their children. Many families served by the MIChild program have fluctuating incomes as demonstrated by the number of children who become Medicaid-eligible due to reductions in family income. The other key reason for ending MIChild coverage is non-payment of the family premium of $10 month, an indication that low-income families struggle with meeting a modest premium. Those two reasons account for about 90% of the reasons for case closures over a recent three month period.
If MIChild ends and families are forced to seek coverage from the Health Insurance Marketplace, where premiums will be higher and copays and deductibles will be required, children could simply end up uninsured if parents cannot afford the increased costs.
Voting on a bill that includes the funding compromise could come as soon as Thursday in the House. Senate action is expected in early April. To support children in keeping their healthcare coverage, contact your U.S. Representative as well as Representative Upton and your U.S. Senator and urge them to support a fully- funded CHIP extension, with no cuts and no program restrictions.
More than 40,000 children and their families need your help.
– Jan Hudson