Health insurance for 150K AL children hangs in the balance

Health insurance for 150K AL children hangs in the balance
(Source: Pixabay Images)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA/AP) - More than 150,000 Alabama children will lose health insurance in February unless Congress votes to restore funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP.

Alabama health officials have announced steps to freeze, and then ultimately close the ALL Kids program, which provides subsidized insurance for working families. Officials cite Congress' failure to renew funding for the program, the Associated Press reports.

The state will freeze enrollment on Jan. 1, 2018, without a reauthorization, meaning 84,000 children that benefit from ALL Kids will lose coverage on Feb. 1.

Another 75,000 children who benefit from the Medicaid CHIP expansion program will also lose coverage, according to documents from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Cathy Caldwell, director of Alabama's CHIP program, told the AP the program's closure will be devastating for many families.

Caldwell said the program helped bring down the number of children who go without health insurance in the state from one in five in the 1990s to 2.4 percent today.

Below is a county-by-county list of the number of children enrolled in the programs as of August 2017:

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama released a statement about ALL Kids decision: 

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama recognizes the importance of the ALL Kids program which provides children in our state access to quality healthcare through our preferred provider network.

Doug Jones also released a statement about the decision, via Twitter:

"This has reached a crisis level and my future colleagues must stop playing political football with the health care of our children and act now to ensure Alabama's most vulnerable do not begin losing coverage. It is absolutely unacceptable that Congress has allowed partisan fighting to delay renewing funding for the Children's Health Insurance (CHIP). The state of Alabama announced yesterday that it would freeze enrollment beginning on January 1st and the funding that covers more than 150,000 Alabama is set to expire not long after. It's time for our leaders to do what's right and extend funding for the nine million children who receive coverage from CHIP."

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.