Kerry Taylor and her husband are self-employed farmers from Salem. She said her family has to consider health insurance costs when balancing the annual business budget.
“As a farmer, our income fluctuates from year-to-year,” Taylor said. “It’s just a yearly task to figure out what’s going to best for our family because we don’t have a union or another big group to purchase insurance through.”
Taylor said her farming and other self-employed friends rely on Children’s Health Insurance Programs, or CHIP to insure their kids.
Taylor and her husband were already on the Affordable Care Act’s exchange. They have a 23-month old boy and he’s on Husky B.
“The coverage is quite good and very affordable compared to [our] private plan on the exchange,” Taylor said. When her son was born, he came three months early. She said he’s healthy. But because of the premature birth, she has to bring her boy to a specialist for quarterly check-ups.
Earlier this year, it looked like funding for CHIP would run out by February. But as part of a deal to end the recent government shutdown, CHIP was extended for six years. That means some 17,000 Connecticut kids will continue to be insured on the Husky B Medicaid program.
As Taylor dealt with uncertainty during the 114 days that there was no budget whatsoever for CHIP floated by Congress, and the prospect of cheap co-pays for her son’s care going away, she decided to reach out to the office of the state health care advocate to figure out what her options were.
And during that time, the head of that office told WNPR that parents of Husky B recipients should “plan for the worst-case."
Ted Doolittle, Connecticut’s health care advocate, said that had CHIP been allowed to expire, and many of those families were moved onto the exchange, it actually would’ve driven up taxpayer costs.
“It’s cheaper to cover the families under CHIP, under Husky B, because Medicaid has negotiated better prices,” Doolittle said. “Medicaid has a lower price structure. So, the government would have been covering these families under the ACA exchange at a higher cost to the federal government versus getting them into the lower-cost, more efficient CHIP program.”
Besides the economic impact of funding CHIP rather than subsidized programs like the Affordable Health Care Exchange, Doolittle is happy that those 17,000 kids will continue to be insured. He said when kids get sick, it can put a tremendous strain on families, particularly working ones.
“The peace of mind is astronomical and can’t be measured, but then again, the access to health care is also extremely important,” Doolittle said. “It would be better if there were a plan that covered everybody from cradle-to-grave and you were required to be enrolled in it.”
In other words what he’d really like to see is universal health care.
Meanwhile, Taylor’s little one is still on Husky B.
“I was happy that CHIP passed but I think it’s really unfortunate that it’s been used as like a political pawn,” Taylor said.
Doolittle agreed. He said the programs always had bipartisan support in Congress and even though he said he’s unaware of how negotiations went, they were probably in danger of losing funding so that congressional leaders could use CHIP as a “bargaining chip.”