MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — More than 80,000 Alabama children stand to lose their health insurance on Feb. 1 unless Congress restores funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, state health officials have announced.
Citing Congress' failure to renew funding for the program, Alabama health officials have begun steps to freeze and possibly close the program known as ALL Kids early next year. It provides subsidized insurance for children in working families.
The state plans freeze enrollment on Jan. 1. Alabama would then end benefits for all 84,000 children on Feb. 1 unless Congress acts to renew the program by then.
Cathy Caldwell, director of Alabama's CHIP program, said closing the program would be devastating for many families. She said the program has helped reduce the number of children who go without health insurance in the state from 20 percent in the 1990s to 2.4 percent today.
"Tens of thousands of Alabama working families learned today - one week before Christmas - that their children will lose health insurance Feb. 1 if Congress continues to delay funding" for the program, said Jim Carnes, policy director of the Arise Citizens' Policy Project, an advocacy group for low-income families.
Alabama has one of the more generous eligibility ranges for the program. A family of four making up to $77,982 annually can qualify for the program.
The Children's Health Insurance Program also provides funding for 77,000 Alabama children enrolled in the state's Medicaid program. Those children will keep their health care, but the state will have to pick up the cost of their coverage.