Children’s insurance program to end in Alabama on Jan. 1

Published 11:52 am Saturday, December 23, 2017


MONTGOMERY (AP) — A program providing insurance for the children of low-income families in Alabama will stop enrollment on New Year’s Day.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program will end a month after enrollment is halted, reported. About 84,000 children in the state are at risk of losing health insurance if Congress does not renew funding for the program, which expired Sept. 30.

The state will have to find funding for another 77,000 children insured under Medicaid though the program. About 9 million children receive coverage through the program nationally, and many states plan to shutter the program as funds run out.

Families with incomes of up to 312 percent of the federal poverty limit can qualify if they don’t have access to affordable insurance. Families pay $52 or $104 a year to cover children under the age of 19, depending on income, plus small co-pays for sick visits.

“These are middle income working Alabama families,” said Cathy Caldwell, director of the Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance Programs for the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The program in Alabama funded by CHIP is known as ALL Kids, which has existed in the state since 1998.

Caldwell said ALL Kids was very popular and successful. When the program started about 20 percent of children in Alabama lacked health insurance. That number is now 2.4 percent — the best in the South.

“It is a very, very important and popular program,” Caldwell said. “It has served hundreds of thousands of children over the years.”

Officials at the Alabama Department of Public Health have not yet sent letters to families on ALL Kids, Caldwell said. They are holding off until late next week to see whether members of Congress act to fund the program.

Caldwell said they have already received calls from parents worried about their children’s health coverage.

Some families may be able to enroll in insurance through the federal marketplace, Caldwell said. Open enrollment ended on Dec. 15 this year, a month and a half earlier than the first few years of the Affordable Care Act.

Caldwell said the end of ALL Kids would allow parents to sign up for insurance outside of the open enrollment period. But she said many families might not be able to afford private insurance.

“Some of the children will have that as an option,” Caldwell said. “Some may have employer-sponsored insurance. Any of those will be substantially more expensive than ALL Kids.”