Fighting to Keep Child Health Plus Alive

Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will run out in September 2015 unless Congress agrees to extend it. A failure to do so would undermine children’s health insurance in all 50 states, including New York.

A brief background of CHIP and Child Health Plus

Created in 1997, CHIP has helped states like New York achieve nearly universal coverage by offering affordable, comprehensive coverage to children who don’t qualify for Medicaid. CHIP provides federal matching funds to state governments, allowing them to operate health insurance programs that are tailored to the specific needs of children in that state. The product of a Republican-controlled Congress and a Democratic president, CHIP is a bipartisan success story.

Of the eight million children who rely on CHIP today, half a million live in New York State, where all children who are residents under the age of 19 are eligible for the state’s version of CHIP, Child Health Plus (CHP). Families who earn below 400 percent of the federal poverty level can get subsidies to help them afford CHP.

Where’s the funding, Congress?

New York and other states are now drawing up their budgets for the next fiscal year. With CHIP’s funding slated to run out in mere months, governors and legislators, as well as families, need assurance that funding will continue. Governor Cuomo of N.Y. and 38 other governors have sent letters urging immediate renewal of CHIP and warning of the disruption any delays may cause for families who rely on CHIP.

 

CHIP-infographic (1)

 

In mid-February, Senate and House Democrats released two bills to sustain CHIP (H.R. 919 and S. 522). Both bills would:

  • Extend CHIP funding through 2019
  • Maintain the 23-percentage increase in federal matching rates established by the ACA
  • Continue initiatives to measure and improve pediatric quality of care

On February 24, Republican leadership – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hatch (R-UT), Senate Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Upton (R-MI), and House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) – released a discussion draft for a third, alternative CHIP bill.

It’s a welcome sign that both sides of the aisle appear to be committed to extending CHIP. However, the Republican proposal has several downsides. Health advocates say that that Hatch-Upton-Pitts bill, if enacted, would result in reduced funds for states, potentially longer waiting periods for children, and the elimination of vital protections that could allow states to roll back coverage. (For more info, read this and this.) For example, the bill would eliminate federal match funding for families earning over 300% of FPL – a big hit to New York’s program, which provides subsidized coverage to families up to 400% FPL. The chairmen are currently inviting comments on their proposal.

Clashing visions of CHIP in Congress means we can expect further delays before a final decision is made on CHIP funding. Meanwhile, time is running out for millions of families in New York State and across the country.

Join or follow the conversation online by exploring the hashtag #ExtendCHIP on Twitter

 

ACA is working cover

“The Affordable Care Act gave me a chance and ended my six year nightmare of living without health insurance. It was way more simple and affordable than people think.”

-Karen E., Ulster County

The Affordable Care Act is working in New York, according to HCFANY’s new publication, The ACA is Working: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories.

The new publication shares stories from New Yorkers like Karen, a single mother from Ulster County, who was finally able to get affordable health coverage for her family after being uninsured for six years, thanks to federal subsidies. Ben, from Broome county got covered thanks to the ACA’s Medicaid Expansion and enrolled in the same plan as his son. And Engracia got help from a local Navigator to enroll in a plan that saves her $4,500 a year.

The ACA is Working: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories features twelve consumer stories and quotes from New Yorkers in all regions of the State who enrolled in private Qualified Health Plans, Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and small business plans, all through the NY State of Health Marketplace during the first Open Enrollment period. Many got help to enroll from Navigators, who offer free, unbiased, in-person enrollment help. The stories are paired with key statistics and facts about how the ACA is working for New York – and most importantly, New Yorkers.

View HCFANY’s full press release here.

This post is part of a two-part blog series on unaccompanied minors in New York. View the first post here. Last month, the Children’s Defense Fund – New York and the Health Care for All NY coalition presented two webinars on unaccompanied minors and access to health services.  The full recordings and materials for Unaccompanied Minors and Health Care Access and Unaccompanied Minors and Behavioral Health Services are available at the HCFANY website.


Lorraine

 

 

Guest Post: Lorraine Gonzalez-Camastra, Director of Health Policy,
Children’s Defense Fund – NY

The United States is making steady progress in reducing the number of uninsured Hispanic children, even as the total population of Hispanic children grows, according to a report recently released by Georgetown Center for Children and Families. Since 2009, the number of Hispanic children who are uninsured has dropped by more than half a million, while the total number of Hispanic children grew by more than a million. New York is one of three states nationally that has rates of uninsured Hispanic children that are well below the national average. While this is a huge accomplishment, it is important to consider how the recent surge in unaccompanied children nationally, and in New York State, might impact uninsurance rates. These children will need to be connected to a means for health insurance coverage to avoid an uptick in the uninsurance rate for Hispanics nationally and in New York State, specifically.

In response to the latest surge of unaccompanied children who have arrived in New York State, mainly populating the downstate region, the New York City Council, in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation and New York Community Trust, has secured resources for legal services to represent these children at immigration and deportation proceedings. Additionally, the Council and Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs have also begun to organize an accessible pathway to social service supports for these children/youth on-site at the federal immigration court in New York City. Most concretely, Mayor de Blasio’s administration has created a resource directory for the unaccompanied minor population so that front-line workers can direct children and families to appropriate support services.

New York State reflects a very diverse demographic.  It can be daunting for newly immigrated families to become acculturated to Americanized social service systems that offer health care, education, and other supports. For children who arrive unaccompanied, the experience can be all the more intimidating.

It is essential that city and state officials employ social service policies that are user-friendly by children and families, especially new immigrants. In New York City and State, we have worked to gain some successes in this area. Moving ahead, we must continue to keep pace with the rising demand of Hispanic and other ethnicities entering our local communities.

Want to learn more? Visit the HCFANY webinars available here and here.

boots on the ground

As of August, 2014, more than 350,000 children had enrolled in coverage through the NY State of Health Marketplace. What better way to celebrate these gains in coverage than to close the final coverage gaps?

HCFANY’s Children, Youth and Families Task Force aims to secure quality, affordable coverage for all children in New York. The Task Force will hold its fall meeting for November 6 in Albany. Task force members and supporters are invited to attend, including child advocates, outreach professionals, enrollment assisters, and others working to improve children’s health. You can register here to attend.

In addition to closing coverage gaps, the Children, Youth and Families Task Force has also set its sights on ensuring the federal government maintains the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is called Child Health Plus in New York. As we’ve posted about here and here, CHIP program funding is set to expire September 2015 unless Congress extends it. The Task Force recently alerted its members of a sign-on letter from First Focus and other leading stakeholders urging Congress to enact a four-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) before the end of the year. It promises to be a hot topic at the fall meeting, as well.

Another highlight at the fall meeting is a planned presentation by Jason Helgerson, New York’s Medicaid Director. Mr. Helgerson will brief attendees about the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program, otherwise knows as the “DSRIP,” and what this means for children’s coverage and access. As we get closer to our goal of universal coverage for kids, there is also work to do to ensure children have access to the services they need.

Sound like a great way to spend an afternoon? Register for the fall meeting today.