CHIPped Away in Alexandria

CHIPped Away in Alexandria

Alexandria children could pay the price for national healthcare debate.

There are 1,274 people in Alexandria covered under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a program that protects children in low-income families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. But CHIP’s federal funding expired on Sept. 30 as a result of political maneuvering in the ongoing fight in legislature to overturn the Affordable Care Act, leaving four million CHIP enrollees in states where CHIP isn’t tied to Medicaid in jeopardy. Virginia is one of those states, and in January the funds run dry, leaving 66,000 enrollees across the state without insurance.

“We have been awaiting direction from the state regarding this,” said Kate Garvey, director of the Department of Community and Human Services. “It had been hoped we’d have enough funding through spring. We do have a regional meeting on Friday where we hope to get more concrete information and how we move forward.”

Notice to those impacted must be sent out 60 days before those impacted lose insurance. Garvey says the city is already looking into how to reach out to families impacted by this.

“We would have to develop significant outreach campaign as well as scrubbing cases to find anyone who would be eligible for Medicaid to move them over, but that would not be a large group,” said Garvey. “If this actually comes to pass, we have to look at what other kinds of concrete, tangible aid we could be thinking about. It’s hard to imagine how families will deal with this. We have to do everything within our control and partner with nonprofits to work through strategies.”

Vice Mayor Justin Wilson said the city would begin looking into what kind of programs could be offered to those who lose their insurance.

“Obviously this is a ridiculous situation we find ourselves in,” said Wilson. “Hopefully it doesn’t come to pass, but if it does we have some opportunities to try and protect these kids and work with some of our safety net organizations to respond accordingly. It’s really unfortunate. I’m hopeful Congress steps forward to help these kids and not make them a pawn of gridlock in Washington.”

City Manager Mark Jinks said he believes, at the end of the day, Congress will fund the program, but the city and state will still have to brace to see if there’s a gap in the funding that localities are left to cover.