A program that provides a safety net for more than 8 million children, and more than half of all Black children, has become the latest casualty in the war to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACT).
The Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plays a critically important role in coverage for children of color, whose families are more likely than White families be low-income, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
In September 2017, the Republican-controlled Congress missed the deadline for reauthorizing CHIP. In October, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to put the bill that would reauthorize CHIP to a vote in the U.S. Senate.
“No family in New York or elsewhere should ever have to make the agonizing decision between taking their child to the doctor and footing the cost of exorbitant medical bills they cannot afford,” Schumer said in the statement.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took to Twitter to detail the number of children who would be at risk without CHIP. KFF reported that CHIP and Medicaid cover more than half of Hispanic children (52 percent) and Black children (56 percent), compared with about one-quarter of White children (26 percent).
Black children suffer from chronic diseases, including asthma, diabetes, obesity, dental disease and sickle cell anemia, at higher rates than White children, which makes the loss of CHIP coverage even more devastating for them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Black children are twice as likely as White children to have asthma and are 10 times more likely than White children to die from complications from asthma.
The impact of CHIP and expanded health-care coverage through the ACA on the lives of Black children is undeniable. According to Global Policy Solutions (pdf), the ACA virtually eliminated the disparity in uninsured rates between Black and White children. “Additionally, many uninsured children who were eligible for Medicaid or CHIP before the ACA gained coverage after ACA implementation because of increased awareness, outreach, and enrollment efforts,” GPS reported.
Bruce Lesley, the president of First Focus, a nonprofit group that advocates for federal policies that benefit children and families, told Vox that the feud between Republicans and Democrats in Congress over the ACA has created the perfect storm for kids to lose health insurance coverage: “This is a huge mess,” he said.
The children most at risk of losing CHIP coverage soon are likely those who reside in states with separate CHIP programs, which are quickly running out of funds. At least five states and the District of Columbia—Arizona, California, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon—are predicting that they will run out of money by the end of the year or in early January 2018, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families. Kaiser estimated that 32 states will exhaust their federal funds by March 2018.