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120,000 Michigan Children at Risk of Losing Health Insurance

Mitch Albers

By Mitch Albers, MASB Assistant Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Dec. 13, 2017

While Congress has been busy attempting to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and passing tax cuts that could negatively impact schools across the country, it has also failed to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Without CHIP, thousands of Michigan children could lose access to health care and numerous other services as soon as April 2018, putting them at risk of missing more days of school and falling behind due to unmet health care needs.

CHIP was created in 1997 with the intention of extending health insurance to children of low- and moderate-income families that may not be eligible for Medicaid. In Michigan, CHIP is known as MiChild and it provides coverage to nearly 120,000 children. This program provides traditional medical and dental benefits, as well as inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services, physical and occupational therapies, vision and hearing exams and corrective lenses and hearing aids, and services for speech, hearing and language disorders.

The U.S. Congress failed to reauthorize funding for CHIP in September, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has said it will begin sending out letters in January to notify parents of recipient children that funds will run out unless action is taken. MDHHS states that Michigan should have enough funding to administer the program until April or May, which is much better than a number of other states, but without federal action Michigan’s legislative leaders will have to determine how to address funding shortfalls.

Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have been vocal about their support for the program and have urged their colleagues in the Senate to reauthorize funding. CHIP has always enjoyed bipartisan support; however, it appears that, at this time, there are issues with how to pay for the continued funding.

There is evidence that improved health among children with Medicaid and CHIP translates into gains in school performance and educational attainment over the longer term, with potentially positive implications for both individual economic well-being and productivity in the overall economy. If CHIP is not reauthorized, urban and rural counties across the state will feel the impact. Parents of these students will no longer be able to afford getting their children necessary treatment for ordinary sicknesses and likely send sick children to schools. Kids who need physical and occupational therapies or have hearing or vision issues won’t be able to continue their treatments or receive corrective devices, which will hinder their learning abilities at best.

MASB has been working with and supporting the National School Boards Association’s efforts in Washington D.C. and discussing the issue with Michigan interest groups to understand the impact and possible remedies that may be necessary if Congress fails to act. However, for Michigan to continue MiChild on its own, there will have to be tough conversations about our state’s budget priorities in an already tight budget year. Make your voice heard by contacting your federal representatives and senators and encouraging them to fund CHIP.

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