Concern statewide over the future of CHIP

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)- A temporary spending plan to finance the federal government has raised a lot of concern about children’s health care across the country.

The stopgap bill federal lawmakers passed Friday provides a temporary solution to critical funding needs for some states, but not Pennsylvania.

For some parents who don’t quality for Medicaid of cannot afford the cost of their employer’s insurance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, is the best solution.

“It’s cost effective and it’s good insurance,” said Valerie Spencer, whose son is on CHIP.

So news that funding is running out in Pennsylvania for a program that provides more than 180,000 children in the commonwealth with healthcare is nerve-racking for parents like Spencer.

The stopgap spending bill provided temporary funding for CHIP programs in states that were already in the red, according to lawmakers. But several states, including Pennsylvania, were not on that list and they are expected to run out of the federal funding by the end of January and individual states would have to come up with the money to keep it operating at the current level.

If CHIP money runs out with no funding mechanism in place, Spencer says she might be forced to find other insurance.

“Now I’m going to have deductibles and higher copayments.”

But some parents fear the worst- no coverage at all for hundreds of thousands of low income children. Geisinger Health Plan (GHP) in Danville has received call after call from parents about losing their CHIP coverage.

“We’ve been trying to alay them as best we can,” said David Evans, vice president of state government programs at GHP. “Telling them we’re going to continue coverage for as long as we can.”

It’s been a blame game as to why there is so much uncertainty with CHIP.

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey said:

“Democrats are continuing an irresponsible fear-mongering campaign as it related to CHIP. CHIP will be reauthorized without any shortfall or lag in funding for Pennsylvania.”

Meanwhile U.S. Senator Bob Casey says Republicans got their priorities wrong.

“This is what happens when you have a party obsessed with repealing healthcare, which ate up a lot of time.”

He says no parent or child should be left with any degree of uncertainty.

To put it in perspective on a local level, there are currently 4,287 children currently enrolled in the CHIP program in Luzerne County and another 2,450 children in Lackawanna County who depend on the federally-backed insurance.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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