23 days after CHIP expired, Virginia preparing to tell families their kids will lose health coverage

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Nearly 9 million children across the country are in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with 65,000 of them (along with 1,100 pregnant women) in Virginia. Thanks to Republicans in Congress letting the CHIP program expire, Virginia now faces a December 1 deadline to let families know that their children’s coverage will end on January 31. That could mean disaster for children and their families:

The result would look would like this: a child with asthma who loses health insurance will have nothing to prevent future asthmatic episodes and will almost certainly end up in the emergency room, said Dr. Richard Bennett, a pediatrician at the Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital.

“The coverage that would have cost a few dollars to hundreds of dollars will now cost a family thousands to tens of thousands of dollars,” Bennett said.

The ripples would expand from there. The child would likely miss

and parents would then miss work, placing their employment at risk while they grapple with a mountain of medical debt.

It’s possible that congressional Republicans will decide that letting millions of children lose their health care isn’t a good idea on political grounds, even if they’re fine with it as a policy, and will renew CHIP’s funding. But for now, Virginia, like other states, is putting time and money into dismantling its program, including getting ready to notify families of what’s coming: 

“It’s going to be a balancing act between giving parents too little notice and unnecessarily scaring them,” [a state official] said.

With this Congress, they probably should be scared.

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