Alabama kids no longer in danger of losing coverage after CHIP, All Kids funding restored

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Due to a lapse in federal funding the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), known as ALL Kids in Alabama, recently found itself in jeopardy.

The program, which acts as a safety net for roughly 150,000 children across the state became an important bargaining chip in the government shutdown when it came to negotiations over the federal budget and immigration. But the tide turned in CHIP’s favor early Monday afternoon, when members of the U.S. Senate agreed to pass a bill extending the federal budget for an additional three weeks — and CHIP’s budget for an additional six years.

Across the state, Alabama officials applauded the extension of the program.

“I am thankful that Congress has finally passed a continuing resolution to fund the Federal Government, including a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP),” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “I have continually supported CHIP funding because approximately 159,000 Alabama children depend on it for their health insurance. Caring for our children and meeting their healthcare needs is a bipartisan issue; I appreciate Alabama’s Congressional Delegation for playing a key role in ensuring continued funding for CHIP.”

President of the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) and Lieutenant Governor candidate Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said funding is “vital for Alabama.”

“Great to hear that the #SchumerShutdown is about to end and the government will reopen. #CHIP funding is vital for Alabama, and a continuing resolution protects our military families and many hardworking federal employees and contractors (like those at @TeamRedstone),” Cavanaugh tweeted.

More than 83,000 children in the state are covered by All Kids program. Meanwhile, another 75,000 are covered by an Alabama Medicaid component of CHIP.

“Families across Alabama deserve to breathe a sigh of relief, but it never should have come to this. CHIP funding deserved a quick, straightforward renewal before it expired nearly four months ago. Delaying the renewal and tying it to other important issues was unnecessary and irresponsible,” said Jim Carnes, policy director for the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project. “CHIP, known as ALL Kids in Alabama, is a proven success story that played a big part in cutting our state’s uninsured rate for children from 20 percent to just 2.4 percent over the last two decades. Other states have seen similar improvements.

Kathy Caldwell, Director of the Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance at the Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed those statistics. Since its inception in 1998, ALL Kids has helped reduce the number of uninsured children in Alabama from 20 percent to 2.4 percent.

With such a success story, state legislators had worried how the state would fund the much-needed program should Congress fail to reauthorize the program since the legislative session began.

Ozark-Republican and House Ways and Means Chairman Steve Clouse had gone on record saying that if the state has to pick up even a fraction of the cost of program, it will cast a “shadow” over the entire budget.

Now, he tells the AP, the state can “breathe a collective sigh of relief here.”

But ALL Kids future isn’t set in stone. While Congress has funded the program through 2023, the funding rates will decrease over time. For the first two years, federal money will pay for at least 88 percent of the program’s expenses in the state. In 2020, the federal share will decrease and the state will have to pick up some of the costs.

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