A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Commentary: Protecting Ky’s Children’s Health Insurance Program necessary to ensure our future

As proud members of Kentucky’s business community, ensuring the future strength of our state’s economy and workforce is extremely important to us.

Just about the only thing more important is ensuring the future of Kentucky’s children.

Thankfully, there’s a great way to achieve both goals simultaneously: Protecting KCHIP, the children’s health insurance program here in Kentucky, which covered 92,728 children in 2016.

To do that, Congress must reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) before it expires at the end of this month. CHIP insures 8.9 million children in the United States. That’s one child in ten across the country. By far, most of the children covered by CHIP are part of working families earning too much to qualify for Medicaid, but also not earning enough to afford private insurance.

While the sheer number of children helped by CHIP is impressive, that fact doesn’t get to the heart of why CHIP matters to the business community from an economic and workforce-development perspective: Research tells us that investing in CHIP helps build a bridge to a stronger workforce.

Here’s how. Some of the most common problems that create chronic absence in school are unmet health needs. CHIP helps lessen the impact that health problems like dental pain, asthma, anemia, and diabetes have on a child’s daily life. This leads to fewer incidents that can keep a child out of school.

For example, a recent report from Council for a Strong America highlighted research showing that, after uninsured children with asthma enrolled in CHIP, they suffered half as many asthma attacks. Even better, only one-quarter as many of these children had to be hospitalized for asthma.

CHIP is especially helpful to families with children who have special healthcare needs. As any parent knows, your child’s health problems affect you, too. A sick kid who can’t go to school often means that a parent has to miss work to care for the child or to take the child to get medical attention. While some of that is unavoidable, children with special healthcare needs—about 200,000 of whom are covered by CHIP—require significant attention and care by parents, impacting parents’ ability to work.

In fact, a recent study revealed that half of the parents who have a child with special healthcare needs must spend more than five hours per week to care for their child. The study found that the cost of this lost productivity totals a massive $17 billion in foregone earnings each year.

That matters to us as members of the business community, but what matters to us as taxpayers is CHIP’s solid return on investment. Preventative healthcare for kids reduces costs to society in the long-run. For instance, research shows that evidence-based mental health therapy has net benefits to society of up to $7,800 per child.

CHIP also helps fuel the economy by keeping working families out of poverty. It’s all-too-easy for a family that’s just barely getting by to slip into bankruptcy due to out-of-pocket medical expenses. In 2015 alone, 2.5 million children fell into poverty as a direct result of families’ medical expenses.

It’s clear to see that CHIP is an essential support for working families. For those nearly 200,000 families that have children with special healthcare needs, CHIP may be the only thing standing between them and poverty or bankruptcy. CHIP helps keep kids in school and parents at work, boosting education and workplace productivity. We also support CHIP because it gives states like Kentucky considerable flexibility in administering the program in the way that best suits our citizens’ needs.

CHIP is an excellent investment, and has historically been a popular, successful, bipartisan program. Unfortunately, funding for CHIP is set to expire on September 30. In just a few weeks, Kentucky’s children and millions of children across the nation will no longer have access to the positive effects of CHIP.

While we are pleased to see the recent announcement of a bipartisan Senate compromise on CHIP between Senator Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Widen (D-OR), there is still more work to be done. Congress is rapidly running out of time to reauthorize the program.

We urge our leaders in Congress—including Kentucky’s own Majority Leader McConnell and House Energy & Commerce Committee member Rep. Guthrie—to come together immediately to reauthorize CHIP, for the sake of our economy, our workforce, and, most importantly, our children.

Paul Fultz and Ankur Gopal

Paul Fultz is Managing Partner of KPMG’s Louisville office and a member of ReadyNation. Ankur Gopal is CEO of Interapt and a member of ReadyNation.


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