GLENS FALLS — Locally, more than 8,000 children are at risk of losing their health insurance if funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program is not extended, said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., during a visit to Glens Falls Hospital on Friday morning.
“A child who is ill can’t function properly,” the U.S. Senate House minority leader said to a group of about 100. “Getting good health care for our kids is very important.”
Schumer’s stop was the first of many planned throughout the state in his effort to push Congress to promptly extend funding for CHIP, known as Child Health Plus in New York, which is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.
According to Schumer, the CHIP program is authorized through 2019, but no new funding is available when the fiscal year ends this fall.
Glens Falls Hospital President and CEO Dianne Shugrue said Friday that she and others visited Schumer and asked him to come to the hospital.
“The senator is a man of his word,” Shugrue said. “That was less than a year ago and here he is.”
Under the current program, nearly 20,000 children in the Capital Region are enrolled. Locally there are 1,447 children enrolled in Warren County; 1,648 in Washington County; 4,186 in Saratoga County; 782 in Essex County; and 78 in Hamilton County.
“Forty percent of the children in the Glens Falls School District are covered by Medicaid and CHIP,” said Kate Breslin, president and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy in Albany, during the Schumer visit. “Data shows that when kids get the care they need, the more likely they are to succeed in life.”
According to Schumer, the uninsured rate went from 15 percent to less than 5 percent for the state’s children.
“A family of four, making under $95,000, is qualified for CHIP,” the senator said. “This helps working families.”
Dr. Kevin Gallagher, chief medical information officer and a primary care physician at the hospital’s Granville Family Health Center, told the story of a young patient he was scheduled to see on Friday.
“One of my patients, a 7-year-old girl, has multiple congenital abnormalities. She has a lot of challenges,” he said. “She has to take trips to Boston for care.”
As Gallagher explained, the girl’s family has employer-supported insurance, but because they have so many medical costs, the family cannot afford the high premium for their other daughter.
“They are able to have CHIP coverage for their other daughter,” he said. “CHIP will expire on Sept. 30, but my patients will need care on Oct. 1 and beyond.”
According to a Yale University study published last week, more than 8 million children nationally risk having their health insurance coverage disrupted if federal funding for CHIP is not extended beyond 2017.
“In this study we explored two current policy alternatives: extending federal funding for CHIP or enrolling children in the existing health insurance Marketplace plans,” said Alon Peltz, a postdoctoral fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at Yale School of Medicine, in a news release. “If CHIP funding is not renewed and children with chronic conditions shift to coverage under Marketplace plans, their families face increased annual out-of-pocket expenses ranging from $233 to $2,472. Families with children who have epilepsy, diabetes or mood disorders may face the highest costs.”
Schumer said that while there is bipartisan support for extending CHIP’s funding, there are detractors.
“Some people want to cut back,” he said on Friday morning. “It was close last time.”
In 2015, Schumer led the charge to extend CHIP funding and saved New York from losing an estimated $414 million in federal funds. At the time, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., drafted an alternative plan for CHIP funding that lowered income thresholds and transferred more responsibility for the federal program to states.
Hatch could not be reached on Friday afternoon regarding his current stand on extending the program’s funding.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, supports CHIP reauthorization, said spokesman Tom Flanagin on Friday afternoon in a written response to a Post-Star question. “She has voted to support the program in the past. She will be working with her colleagues in the House on a bipartisan basis to reauthorize CHIP,” he said.
Schumer said extending the funding is critical.
“When it comes to something as important as health care, we cannot allow a situation to arrive in which children cannot get the check-up or prescription they need because their family cannot afford the payments or the insurance,” he said. “Allowing this program’s funding to expire is simply unacceptable and I will be pushing my colleagues in Congress to pass an extension without delay. No family should ever have to make the agonizing decision between taking their child to the doctor and footing the cost of exorbitant medical bill they cannot afford.”