With no deal on children’s health plan, U.S. states scramble for Plan B

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For Nancy Minoui of Portland, Oregon, and Crystal Lett of Dublin, Ohio, Congress’ failure to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program is not some distant tale of political wrangling.

Dr. Benjamin Hoffman (L) speaks with Nancy Minoui about 9 month old Marion Burgess, who suffers from a chronic heart condition, at an appointment at the Dornbecher Children’s hospital in Portland, Oregon, U.S. December 6, 2017. Picture taken December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Natalie Behring

For Minoui, it’s about how to provide care for her daughter, Marion Burgess, born last Valentine’s Day with a hole in her heart. For Lett it’s about providing care for her 6-year-old son, Noble, who was born with a complex genetic disorder.

They are among thousands of parents across the country scrambling to look after low-income children whose medical care is funded by a traditionally bipartisan program, known as CHIP, that is now facing a shutdown after Congressional Republicans tied its fate to other legislative battles.

U.S. states, which administer the program but rely on federal funds, and healthcare providers are now preparing for the shutdown they had desperately hoped to avoid.

Virginia began on Tuesday sending notices to tens of thousands of families that the 20-year-old program would close by Jan. 31 without new federal funding. Connecticut is due to mail similar notices this week.

More than a dozen states, including New York and Utah, are poised to send warning notices to families by the end of this month.

Some hospitals and medical providers are encouraging patients to schedule additional doctor appointments and refill prescriptions before the deadline. Others, like the Texas Children’s Hospital, are identifying families with the most seriously ill children, including cancer patients and transplant recipients, to help obtain alternate coverage.

CHIP provides health benefits to almost 9 million children whose families earn too much to be…

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