As members of Congress plan to head home for the holidays, one piece of unfinished business is whether to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for next year. This program helps states insure kids whose parents can’t afford health insurance but make too much to qualify for Medicaid. Legislation to extend the funding lapsed this fall, leaving states to fend for themselves. And Alabama announced it will freeze enrollments and then plans to end the program if Congress does not act. NPR’s David Greene interviewed Cathy Caldwell, head of Alabama’s Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance. Highlights from Caldwell are below.
On Potentially Affected Families in Alabama
“They are absolutely panicked, just panicked is really the best word I have. They’re not understanding what’s going on, they’re not understanding why funding has not been extended for this very important and very popular program, and really just trying to get their brains around what possible options they might have.”
Plans for What Could Happen
“Our program is not out of money yet, but we are projecting to spend our available money and our share of the contingency pool. We are projecting exhausting all of those funds in February. And as you can imagine, to shut down a program where you have 84,000 children enrolled and you have requirements to give them some advance notice before you cut the kids off of insurance, we have to take some actions in advance. So what our current plan is, is we will not enroll any new children or renew any existing enrollees on or after January first. And then we will dis-enroll the 84,000 current enrollees on February first.”
But Reasons for Hope?
“I’m very optimistic that Congress will extend funding. I desperately hope they do it soon before we have to take action, because that that will affect many thousands of children.”