Gambling With Children's Health
The health of of close to 25,000 children in West Virginia is at risk if Congress does not chose to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). As Senator Jay Rockefeller mentioned in today's Charleston Gazette, defunding CHIP could hurt not only children's health but making it harder for families to make ends meet. CHIP is a highly successful program in West Virginia, granting quality health coverage to thousands of children from working families.
The added benefits offered in the CHIP program might otherwise be unaffordable for many working families in state. For example, CHIP's medical benefits include dental care, hearing aids, and additional physical/occupational therapy where marketplace coverage designed for adults does not provide these options for children.
Additionally, CHIP coverage is much more affordable for working families due to the caps on deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. A report from the National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health details the potential cost increases if the children in the CHIP program are moved to private marketplace plans, qualified health plans (QHPs).
Source: Margaret A. McManus and Harriette B. Fox, "Lack of Comparability Between CHIP and ACA Qualified Health Plans" (Washington, D.C.: The National Alliance To Advance Adolescent Health, July 2014).
These charts show that the out-of-pocket limits could cost families almost tenfold in a marketplace plan. Also, children in the CHIP program have to pay little to cover their deductibles, where, in marketplace plans, families could end up paying close to $2,500 before their insurance company will begin paying.
We shouldn't be playing a political game with the health of children in our state. Children have special health care needs. Ignoring the difference in needs of children and adults will put the healthy development of children at risk.
The marketplaces are not yet ready to provide the type of comprehensive coverage these children need and the costs put children at risk of becoming uninsured altogether. West Virginians should encourage lawmakers to make sure CHIP funding is renewed and not "wait and see what happens" when the program is gone.