By Alan Rodriguez Espinoza VCU Capital News Service RICHMOND – Medical coverage for more than 60,000 children and 1,000 pregnant women in Virginia lies in...

By Alan Rodriguez Espinoza

VCU Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Medical coverage for more than 60,000 children and 1,000 pregnant women in Virginia lies in the hands of Congress, which has yet to reach a decision on how to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

CHIP is an extension of Medicaid that provides government-funded health insurance to children and pregnant women from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private health insurance.

Congress missed the Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize federal funding for CHIP.

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The problem is “one of benign neglect,” Karen Remley, CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a press release. “As efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act dominated the agenda in the Senate, needed attention to CHIP was lost.”

In a letter to the Virginia congressional delegation, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said “partisan infighting and dysfunction” in Congress have jeopardized the state’s CHIP-funded program, called Family Access to Medical Insurance Security. McAuliffe and other Democrats blame Republicans for the problem.

McAuliffe estimated that 66,000 children and 1,100 pregnant women in Virginia depend on FAMIS to receive medical services such as immunizations, checkups and even surgeries and cancer treatments.

Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services estimates that nearly 1,200 of those children live in Richmond.

In response to McAuliffe, U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, a Republican from Virginia Beach, said that “scaring families via press release is not helpful.”

“It is completely disingenuous to insinuate that I or any other member of the Virginia congressional delegation are ignoring reauthorization of this important program,” Taylor stated in a press release of his own. “In fact, the present delay is a result of a request by the minority party to further negotiations on offsets.”

U.S. senators including Virginia Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have expressed bipartisan support for the Keep Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure Act, or the KIDS Act of 2017. If ratified, it would extend federal funding for CHIP through the 2022 fiscal year.

“Sen. Warner recognizes it is essential that CHIP is reauthorized,” said Jonathan Uriarte, his deputy press secretary. “And the KIDS Act is an imperfect but needed compromise to continue funding these necessary health care services for children.”

But the KIDS Act does not specify where funding for CHIP would come from.

On Friday, the House voted 242-174 to reauthorize CHIP under the Championing Healthy Kids Act. Democrats opposed the bill because it would cut more than $10 billion from public health and prevention programs funded by the Affordable Care Act and because it would raise Medicare fees for higher-income recipients.

Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, said on the House floor that the Healthy Kids Act would extend CHIP “without adding to our country’s deficit.” On the other hand, Rep. Donald McEachin, a Democrat from Richmond, said the bill is “loaded with poison pills that would undermine the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid.”

According to the Department of Medical Assistance Services, CHIP in Virginia cost more than $304 million in fiscal year 2017, with most of the money coming from the federal government. McAuliffe said Virginia is expected to exhaust the federal funds by the end of January.

“Unless something changes, DMAS will be forced to send letters on Dec. 1, 2017, notifying families of the impending loss of coverage,” McAuliffe stated. “Enrollment will be frozen Jan. 1, 2018, and by Jan. 31, Virginia will have insufficient federal funds to continue the program.”

The House and Senate must agree on a bill before it can be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Chart #1 – Richmond-area localities

Interactive graphic available at https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/gDv7a/2/

Responsive embed code:

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Chart #2 – Virginia localities with most CHIP recipients

Interactive graphic available at https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/x8hF2/2/

Responsive embed code:

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iFrame embed:

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