LOGAN — An important program that is a lifeline to many families in Ohio is on the brink of falling to the wayside.
That’s why senators from the Buckeye State are fighting for the CHIP or Children’s Health Insurance Program, which helps eligible children and pregnant woman access to medical care.
CHIP insures around nine million kids in the United States — more than 209,000 children in Ohio (through what’s known as Healthy Start), according to Senator Sherrod Brown.
Furthermore, Jacqueline Stobbs, Public Assistance Administrator and Hocking site manager at South Central Ohio Job and Family Services (SCOJFS) (which serves Hocking, Ross, and Vinton counties), said each year there are more than 8,000 people who benefit from CHIP in Hocking County.
During the phone conference call, Brown noted that in October, his bipartisan bill to extend funding for five years cleared the Senate Finance Committee, but the Senate has failed to bring the bill to the Senate floor. Brown explained that it’s frustrating as Ohio is set to run out of funding to support CHIP by the end of the year.
“Because folks in Congress with taxpayer-funded healthcare haven’t done their jobs, Ohio families and their kids will pay the price,” said Brown. “We need to put politics aside, roll up our sleeves, and extend CHIP.”
The senator explained that in the Affordable Care Act (often called Obamacare) reauthorized CHIP through 2019. However, Congress allowed funding for the program to expire in September, according to Brown.
He shared that he was saddened that those who need CHIP could soon get a letter in the mail, receiving devastating news that they’ll be losing health insurance.
“It’s almost criminal that these letters are going to be sent saying sorry, your health insurance is gone because Congress is not doing its job,” Brown continued.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman is also in support of the CHIP program and hopes funding will be restored.
“With Ohio’s CHIP funding set to run out by the end of this year, it is critical that the Senate move quickly to extend this funding so that children and families who rely on this program are not left behind and so that low-income kids can reach their God-given potential,” Portman stated. “It’s a vital program for Ohio — so it’s urgent that we do move quickly and extend this funding to ensure these low-income kids continue to have access to high quality health coverage.”
Joining the phone conference call was Crystal Lett. Her son Noble was born with a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS). It’s described as: ‘a genetic multi-system disorder characterized during infancy by lethargy, diminished muscle tone (hypotonia), feeding difficulties, poor weight gain and growth hormone deficiency’, by rarediseases.org.
“It creates physical delays that requires a daily injection of human growth hormone, which is about $1,500 a month. It is often contested heavily by private and employer insurance plans,” Lett stated.
Lett conveyed that her son requires three therapy sessions a week, which is the standard of care for kids with PWS physical occupational and speech therapy.
“After we are out of covered therapy sessions, we have to pay out of pocket regardless if we met our deductible,” she continued. “A conservative estimate — that would cost us about $89,000 a year just for him to meet the basic number of therapy sessions that he needs.”
Lett graciously explained that CHIP allows working families to be able to provide standard of care treatments for their children that otherwise wouldn’t be affordable.
“Kids are able to access the best medical care — insuring that they are able to be well and if they are ill, to get better. Because of better preventative care available through CHIP, Noble has been able to avoid more costly and more intrusive medical procedures,” Lett stated.
With the CHIP benefits, Noble receives the best of the best and is able to be in a regular classroom in first grade and is doing well in school, according to Lett.
“He is well supported in school. He is able to thrive. We owe an awful lot to CHIP benefits and we are very eager to see CHIP reauthorized,” she concluded.
According to Brown’s office, CHIP, which was created in 1997, is ‘a joint state-federal health insurance program for low- to moderate-income children and pregnant women who are not Medicaid eligible.’