Expired health care program leaves thousands of Virginia children, pregnant women at risk

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — If Congress fails to act, thousands of Virginia children and pregnant women are at risk of losing health care.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program provides insurance for children in low-income families, but it expired earlier this week.

The program, also known as ‘CHIP,’ has provided low-income children and pregnant women health insurance for decades. The federal government is shouldering a majority of the costs, but this week the program expired, and if Congress doesn’t approve new funds soon, millions across the country and thousands in Virginia could lose coverage.

“Will begin to shut down in January and notices will begin to go out to families at the beginning of December,” explained Ashley Everette with non-profit advocacy group Voices for Virginia’s Children.

Everette said roughly 120,000 children and 1,100 pregnant women are currently covered under CHIP.

“We can’t imagine the number of children across the state of Virginia who have complex health needs, not being able to access services that are necessary for them to live a healthy and productive life.”

“The insured rate for children is now at 95 percent, a historic high,” Everette said.

Everette said the federal government currently covers 80 percent of the cost in Virginia. If funding isn’t renewed, the state would have to end the program or pick up that cost.

Everette said if funding isn’t renewed in the next month, they’ll be forced to deliver some tough news.

“Just letting families know what there’s a chance that their coverage may be terminated,” she said.

But Everette and thousands of others are hoping it doesn’t come to that.

“We can’t imagine the number of children across the state of Virginia who have complex health needs, not being able to access services that are necessary for them to live a healthy and productive life,” she said.

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