Children’s Health Care Is In Jeopardy!

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Nearly 46 million low-income children in the United States rely on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for health care coverage, but this coverage is in jeopardy. Over the past year, Congress has repeatedly considered legislation that would drastically reduce Medicaid coverage for children, and it is increasingly likely these reductions will be enacted in the near future. Just a few months ago, Congress let CHIP program expire altogether.

Without insurance coverage through Medicaid or CHIP, many millions of low-income children will be unable to afford a visit to the doctor.

Through our Healthy Kids Initiative, Children’s Rights defends the rights of children to receive the healthcare that they so desperately need.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid currently provides health coverage to more than 37 million children.  In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded Medicaid coverage, and since then all children in families having incomes below 133% of federal poverty level have been eligible for Medicaid. States are required to provide children on Medicaid with a full range of pediatric care, including preventative well-child exams, dental exams, and all follow-up care medically necessary for the child’s physical, dental and mental well-being.  The cost of this medical care is shared by the states and federal government under a formula set by the Medicaid law.

What is CHIP?

CHIP is a program that provides health coverage to children whose families cannot afford private insurance, but who are not eligible for Medicaid.  In most states, CHIP covers children in families having income less than 200% of the federal poverty level. Nearly 9 million children are covered by CHIP.

The federal government shares the costs of CHIP by distributing funds to states in the form of block grants. CHIP block grant allotments must be renewed by Congress periodically to reauthorize the block grant expenditures.  Unlike Medicaid, states are not required to provide CHIP coverage, and can shut down the program if federal funding runs out.

The Threat to Children’s Health Care

Throughout this legislative term, Congress repeatedly has put health care for children at risk.

In May, the House passed a bill that not only would have repealed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but also would have made devastating cuts to Medicaid. In particular, the House bill substantially reduced the number of children eligible for Medicaid and the amount of federal Medicaid reimbursement to the states.  It also permitted States to reduce the health services provided to Medicaid-eligible children. The Senate version of the bill contained similar provisions.

Although the effort to repeal ACA was narrowly rejected, Medicaid change remains very much part of the legislative agenda. It is increasingly likely that Congress will enact substantial reductions in Medicaid, dramatically reducing health coverage for low-income children, independent of any further efforts to repeal ACA.

In September, Congress also failed to reauthorize CHIP.  Once states exhaust their current block grants, the funds will not be replenished. Unless Congress reauthorizes CHIP, nearly 9 million children will lose coverage in a matter of months.

CR’s Healthy Kids Initiative

Children’s Rights has developed the Healthy Kids Initiative, a holistic advocacy plan to ensure that children continue to receive the medical services needed to keep them healthy. This initiative includes robust advocacy that marshals the best legal and policy arguments as to why states should continue to provide preventative and other health services to low income children, no matter what reductions in federal funding are enacted by Congress.

We have already brought lawsuits against several states in an effort to ensure that children in state care continue to receive the full range of health services that they require and deserve. We also continue to monitor developments on the health care front and are in a position to respond quickly to future congressional action affecting health care for low-income children.

Children’s Rights stands ready to fight for children in need who are at risk of losing health care.