ALL Kids program faces cloudy future

Published 11:10 am Thursday, December 28, 2017

In mid-December, the federally funded Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers at least 84,000 children in Alabama alone, looked to be in real danger.

Congress did not renew funding for the program in September, and as Jan. 1 draws near many states are looking for ways to allocate dwindling funds to keep the program functioning. The Alabama Department of Health posted a notice stating that enrollment in the ALL Kids would freeze on Jan. 1, 2018 and discontinue the following month.

This statement was later amended to read “ALL Kids will not freeze enrollment on January 1, 2018 nor terminate coverage on February 1, 2018. Further updates to come as Congress needs to pass full, long term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program” after the U.S. Congress passed a continuing resolution as a short-term solution.

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If a long-term solution regarding funding is not reached, an “estimated 1.9 million children in separate CHIP programs could lose coverage in January,” followed by “an additional 1 million…by the end of February” nationwide, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

All Kids is available for children from families with an income that is too high for Medicaid eligibility but below 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

Under the program, premiums range from $52 to $104, and preventative care such as check-ups and immunizations are provided without the need for co-pay.

In Alabama, All Kids is entirely funded with allocations from the CHIP program, and Medicare for children receives funding from CHIP as well.

Alabama’s director of the Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance, Cathy Caldwell, said the funding provided by the continuing resolution will last “three to four weeks,” allowing the department to temporarily unfreeze enrollment.

“Hopefully Congress will act in January,” said Caldwell. “If they don’t, this three to four weeks of money will probably only delay our actions by one month.”

At least 497 total children received health insurance fully or in part through CHIP funding in Crenshaw County as of August 2017.

Although children’s advocacy groups have been pressing Congress since September about the funding, Caldwell said that since the notice of the impending collapse of the program was posted on the Department of Health’s website, “our phones have been ringing off the hook” with people concerned and looking to take action to save the program, leading to concerned citizens contacting representatives to encourage the preservation of the program.

“I really credit those phone calls for Congress even taking this short-term action to make sure we didn’t freeze enrollment,” said Caldwell.

Parents who use All Kids for their children’s insurance should “go ahead and get [the insurance renewed” at the first of the year, said Caldwell. “[All Kids] is so important in Alabama, it’s so important to so many families.”