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9 Million Kids Are at Risk of Losing Health Coverage — Including My Own

Editor’s Note: The views and personal opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not represent the views of Babble.

Kids playing in a sandbox
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In the last week alone, our newsfeeds have been dominated by an onslaught of headlines, ranging from the NFL’s ongoing #TakeAKnee debate to the allegations over Harvey Weinstein’s egregious mistreatment of women. But there’s one bit of news you likely may have missed in the shuffle, and that’s because no one’s been talking about it: On September 30, Congress missed the deadline to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP.

It may not have been met with the same amount of outrage across Facebook, or gained as much airtime on nightly news programs, but make no mistake, that news is huge for a lot of families across America — including mine.

The CHIP program, which has seen widespread support in the past from both Democrats and Republicans, helps lower- and middle-income families make use of affordable insurance for their kids when they earn just a bit too much to be covered by Medicaid, and aren’t able to be covered by other forms of insurance.

In addition to covering about 9 million children nationwide, CHIP also covers 370,000 pregnant women a year, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to pay high insurance premiums, which we’ve seen in recent years as insurance companies have routinely raised rates.

And because those health insurance rates keep going up — and are expected to keep rising — this lapse could have huge consequences for those children and pregnant women who depend on CHIP and are simply unable to afford health insurance otherwise.

The federal government covers most of the cost of CHIP, but some state funding is also used and many states are expected to run out of money soon. Some, like California and Arizona, are on track to lose funding before the end of the year, according to a government report. The rest expect to by next summer. And Minnesota on the other hand, has already spent all of its money allotted for the program.

According to a report by NPR, Congress now seems ready to take action, but it’s not yet clear whether or not children will lose their insurance in the meantime because of this fateful error.

Believe me, I’ve dug (and dug) through the reports myself, and yet it’s still a bit unclear why Congress failed to renew funding for such an important and widely used program like CHIP in the first place. From the outside, it sure seems like CHIP simply wasn’t considered a priority, even though it absolutely should’ve been, because it affects so many — and so many of the most vulnerable, too.

After all, shouldn’t children and pregnant women who otherwise couldn’t afford health-care be at the top of every member of Congress’ priority list?

As a parent whose two kids have been enrolled in The Children’s Health Program since they were born, I’m downright frightened as to what this might mean for my family, and for so many others just like us. CHIP has been an absolute blessing for us, and the only way our hardworking family has been able to afford quality healthcare for our kids. The cost of traditional insurance is simply too high for our family to yield, and so far, this has been our one saving grace.

Even insurance provided through my husband’s job is far too expensive and would put our family in a desperate situation. The cost runs close to that of a second mortgage, and we can scarcely pay our first, along with all the other bills that quickly pile up for a growing family like ours.

My husband works full-time, while I work part-time; and although staying home with my 3-year-old to avoid the cost of daycare or preschool helps matters, we simply aren’t able to cough up nearly $700 or more a month for our family to be insured. Combine the cost of living with the fact that insurance premiums keep rising, and families like ours simply can’t keep up.

To say I’m nervous about my kids potentially losing their coverage as a result of this oversight is … well, a definite understatement.
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But thanks to CHIP, my kids have been able to see a doctor whenever they needed, with little out-of-pocket costs. They’ve had the quality healthcare they need, and as parents, we have the peace of mind that we wouldn’t have to avoid yearly check-ups or other visits because we couldn’t afford to take our kids in when we need to.

So to say I’m nervous about my kids potentially losing their coverage as a result of this oversight is … well, a definite understatement.

Still, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. First off, I live in Maryland, which isn’t one of the more at-risk states. I also have two healthy children. My kids don’t have any medical conditions that require medication, frequent doctor or hospital visits, or other kinds of special care. The only thing we’d have to cut right away would be my daughter’s speech therapy sessions, but not being able to properly say your R’s is small potatoes compared to the health issues some kids are facing.

While I’m terrified about what will happen to my own kids if my state runs out of funds for CHIP, I’m deeply afraid for the families who are in far more dire situations than ours.

And I know that I’m not alone in my worry. With talks of slashing Medicare (Senate Republicans just voted to cut it by $450 billion), a lot more people may have to worry about where their healthcare is coming from soon. It shouldn’t need to be said, or explained, that healthcare programs are important. We are literally putting lives on the line when we neglect to provide affordable insurance.

I may not know what the future holds. But right now, my list of concerns for my kids, for my friends and neighbors, and for my country as a whole, is sadly a little bit longer.

Surely, our children deserve better than this.

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