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CHIP Funding Lack Frightens WV Parents

The Free Press WV

Without renewed funding from Congress, the West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance program is running on fumes - which is worrying families.

At the end of next month, the program will stop new enrollment, a first step in winding down. That’s scary for the parents of the 50,000 or so West Virginia children who get some kind of care from CHIP each year.

Angie Iafrate is the single mother of a nine-year-old boy and a full-time private-school teacher in Charleston.

“I’m absolutely worried about it,“ she says. “I really don’t know what we’ll do. People say, well, maybe you can get insurance through the marketplace at an affordable rate, but the marketplace is constantly under attack in Congress too.“

In the past, CHIP has always had bipartisan support, but some Republicans in Congress are now arguing that funding has to be paid for by cuts to other health-care programs.

Federal support for CHIP ran out last fall. Critics have started describing the program and others like it as “welfare” in need of “reform.“ But the overwhelming majority of the nine million American children getting care through CHIP are in working families - households that are poor, but which by definition make too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Iafrate gets her insurance through her job. But she says there is no way she could afford the extra $500 a month it would cost to cover her son under her policy.

“No, I don’t have $500 extra at the end of the month,“ she laments. “If I’m lucky, I have a few hundred dollars, a couple hundred dollars, and that usually ends up going to an unexpected car repair or an unexpected medical bill or something like that.“

Congressional leaders are promising to include CHIP funding in a large piece of must-pass legislation due this month. But the corporate tax cut just signed by President Donald Trump is increasing the deficit, and many members of Congress are looking for funding cuts to offset that.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

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