INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Thousands of Hoosier children from lower income families could potentially lose access to affordable health care. Congress has yet to approve funding for CHIP, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
CHIP is essentially Medicaid for children and pregnant women. In Indiana, it’s known as "Hoosier Healthwise." It covers those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford individual insurance.
Authorization for the program, which currently provides health care for more than 9 million children nationwide, expired in Sept. Before Christmas, congress allocated $2.85 billion for the program with the assumption that it would take care of funding through March, however, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says states could start running out of money for the program as early as Jan. 19.
“Think how important vaccinations are for children. That’s covered by chip. You think about their dental care, you think about their vision. Anytime a child gets sick and needs to go to the doctor if they don’t have that coverage then where are they going to seek care?” said University of Indianapolis Director of Public Health Heidi Hancher-Rauch.
Hancher-Rauch says if congress doesn’t renew CHIP funding, which costs roughly $14.5 billion per year, then the burden will be placed on the individual states. States could be forced to use reserves, or freeze enrollment in the program as they work to find funding. Currently, more than 115,000 Hoosiers are beneficiaries of the program.
“So for a state to say we’re going to take the burden of that money on ourselves, that’s a big chunk of money to try to find in the state budget,” she said.
State Representative Greg Porter (D) Indianapolis says currently Indiana has about $500 million in Medicaid reserves, so if forced to the state could provide a stop gap for Hoosiers in need. However, he says it wouldn’t be a long-term solution and emphasized the need for federal help.
“We have a window that is cracked that we have to watch, but I think as time goes on we will be able to, with the help of the federal government, come back and close that gap,” Porter said.