BY NAYITA WILSON
THE 2015 EXPIRATION OF THe Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has advocates asking Congres- sional leaders to commit to funding the program be- yond the expiration date.
CHIP, which provides coverage to about eight million U.S. children, is a federal state program that provides coverage for chil- dren who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but whose par- ents cannot afford private coverage.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 retains CHIP’s eligibility stan- dards through 2019 and funds the program through October 2015. ACA also provides $40 million in federal funds to promote Medicaid and CHIP enrollment.
More than 400 advocacy groups in support of the program sent a letter to President Barack Obama as well as minority and majority leaders in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives asking them to secure CHIP’s future this year so that states can operate their programs without interruption.
The challenge, accord- ing to Bruce Lesley, presi- dent of First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy group on federal policy and budget issues relating to issues af- fecting children which co- ordinated the letter, is that children currently enrolled in CHIP may find them- selves uninsured if the pro- gram expires and parents can’t afford to go into the private markets.
Additionally, children who are forced to go into the exchange market brought about by ACA may find themselves in receipt of inferior benefits, he said.
Here, the Louisiana Children’s Health Insur- ance Program (LaCHIP) provides coverage to children up to the age of 19 who meet citizenship and income criteria that deem them eligible to receive health care, mental health, immunizations and other 5 medical services. Approximately 121,095 children were enrolled in LaCHIP in June of last year according to its 2013 an- nual report.
One Louisiana orga- nization, Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, Inc. (Mary Queen), signed the letter in support of seeing CHIP remain in place.
Tap Bui, deputy direc- tor for Mary Queen, said, “As a nonprofit organiza- tion providing services to the underserved communi- ties of New Orleans East, we hope that our represen- tatives take into consider- ation the needs of the com- munity and support the CHIP program.”
The Louisiana Weekly reached out to the entire Louisiana Congressional delegation for comments and their stances on the CHIP reauthorization.
Congressman Cedric Richmond shared the fol- lowing statement: “The Children’s Health Insur- ance Program is crucial to
so many low-income fami- lies who may be just above the Medicaid threshold, but cannot afford private insurance. I believe that it is important to continue to invest in our youth whether it is health care, food assis- tance, education, and so many more valuable pro- grams that if not properly funded would not only be morally reprehensible, but end up costing even more money in the future. I will continue to fight for criti- cal programs such as CHIP and many others that in- vest in our youth.”
U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter as well as U.S. Representa- tives Steve Scalise, Charles Boustany, John Fleming, Vance McAllister and Bill Cassidy had not responded by print deadline.
A representative from within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s press office con- firmed that CHIP is set to expire in October 2015, but could not yet provide an answer with regard to what would become of the chil-dren enrolled in the program should CHIP expire in 2015.