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What Losing CHIP - The Children's Health Insurance Program - Means to a Single Mom

JANUARY 26 UPDATE: We contacted Melissa after Congress reauthorized CHIP and this is her response —

"For me, the action means that I can afford to keep my job, which I know in some way helps other families in need down the line. When facing the fact that my kids might lose their health coverage, it occurred to me that it might be financially beneficial for me to work a job that pays much less in order to qualify for Medicaid and other services since, at this time, we toe the line financially speaking. Living as minimally as I can, we still live paycheck to paycheck. So the reauthorization of CHIP funding means that I won't have to make any drastic financial decisions in order to provide necessities for my children."

Meet Melissa. She’s a single mother to two young kids - A four-year-old son, and a two-year-old daughter. Melissa does not receive any form of financial or parenting support from her now ex-husband. She works full-time and her children are two of the 87,790 children covered by CHIP in Missouri in 2016. When Congress did not reauthorize CHIP by the end of September, the States started spending their unused funds for the program, which are not expected to last much longer.  As many as 8.9 million children around the country could lose health care coverage if Congress does not reauthorize CHIP soon.  This leaves families with alternatives that result in sicker children and higher cost to society in uncompensated care. 

Q: Melissa, what does CHIP mean to your family?

I pay $800 to $900 a month for day care and pre-school for both of my children. I can't afford any other health insurance for the children, and co-pays are a concern with most other insurance options. With CHIP, I pay $24/month to cover both my son and daughter. And there are no co-pays, even for emergency room visits. 

Q:  What would it cost you to not have CHIP?

I make too much to qualify for a lot of other assistance, but I can get CHIP and WIC. I sometimes think that if we lose CHIP, we might be better off if I took a minimum wage job and then my family would qualify for more public benefits.  It’s still a struggle now, but we’re making ends meet.

 

Q:  If you did not have CHIP, what would you have to do if one of your children got sick or hurt?

We’d have to tough it out a lot longer before I would decide to take them to the Emergency Room. We are lucky. My children do not have chronic conditions. But with CHIP, they get their check-ups and I know they are healthy.  When they are sick, I don’t have to wait too long before they can see a doctor. 

 

Q: How does knowing that CHIP might not be reauthorized make you feel?

It makes me feel scared and insecure. To not know if I will be able to afford to bring my kids to the doctor is a very scary thing for me.


Q: If you could have a one-on-one conversation with a member of Congress about CHIP, what would you say?

I would ask them to please advocate for my children and other children because they cannot advocate for themselves.

About CHIP:

CHIP, the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, was created in 1997 to help insure children whose families couldn’t qualify for Medicaid but still couldn’t afford other types of insurance. It dropped the proportion of uninsured children in the United States from almost 14 percent to fewer than one in 20. Learn what you can do to show your support for CHIP.