State News

Costs for Wisconsin children’s insurance could rise if national program ends

Wisconsin will have to find the funds to cover health insurance costs for 118,000 kids.

With little evidence that Congress will renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly known as CHIP, many states face the reality that millions of children will lose their insurance.

CHIP was established in 1997 to provide health insurance to children whose families have incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but not high enough to be able to afford private insurance.

The program, which expired Sept. 30, used government funds to cover 94 percent of insurance costs. In Wisconsin, this covered nearly 118,000 children; however, nationwide it covers close to 9 million children.

Since its expiration, states have been relying on their remaining budgets to maintain coverage. Many states, including Colorado, California and Arizona, are expecting that their budgets will empty before the year ends.

As a result, millions of children will be “kicked off” their insurance plan, and, ultimately, left without coverage.

Wisconsin is slightly different. According to Jon Peacock, research director of Kids Forward, the Wisconsin’s CHIP budget is expected to run out in March, but that does not mean that these children will go without coverage.

Wisconsin is a unique case in which previously established state statutes protect the children who are part of the CHIP program. This means that — should the CHIP program end — these children would still be covered under the state’s healthcare program known as Badgercare.

Their coverage will not be lost, but it comes at a cost.

When the CHIP budget runs out, Wisconsin is going to have to spend $135 million per year in order to cover the children's insurance.

“It creates a hole in the state budget that must be dealt with,” Peacock said.

Peacock argues that this money will be allocated either by making cuts in other state budgets or by raising taxes. Regardless of the costs, state Legislature ensures that the children within the state will not be left without insurance.

“We should be concerned about what it means for kids across the nation,” Peacock said, as “other state statutes are written differently.” 

UPDATE Nov.30 at 1:31 p.m.: This article listed Kids Forward with they previous name. The Daily Cardinal regrets this error. 

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