UPDATED at 11:10 p.m. 10/04/2017
Two measures to extend federal funding for CHIP - the Children’s Health Insurance Program - moved forward Wednesday. That’s encouraging news for the families of more than 300,000 kids in the Carolinas who get their health insurance through the program. Congress let funding for it expire last week.
CHIP now covers about 9 million kids across the country whose parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford health insurance. In North Carolina that means a family of four qualifies for CHIP if they earn less than $52,000 a year. 11-year-old Caleb George of Benson, NC, is covered by the program. He has Autism, ADHD and a genetic neurological condition.
His mother Leanna George, who testified before Congress in support of the program, said he sees a variety of doctors.
“The only thing I spend on him for medical appointments is the gas to get him there.”
Without CHIP, Leanna would have to pay for those doctors’ expenses and Caleb’s medicines. Those medications alone would cost about $400 a month - a week of pay for her family, she said. So the idea of losing Caleb’s coverage stresses her.
“I don’t even really want to think about it because I know how much everything would cost,” she said.
Still, Leanna’s hopeful Congress will extend CHIP. The 20-year-old program has had strong bipartisan support. The program has helped bring down the rate of uninsured children down to just 5 percent in 2015.
But the deadline came and went amid all the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. A bill that would extend funding for another five years passed the Senate Finance Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday. The measures keep federal spending on the program the same for the next two years with some cuts over the following three. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis say they support the measure. If Congress doesn’t take action, North Carolina has enough federal money to pay for the program through March and South Carolina through at least July.