Experts and advocates gathered in Morgantown yesterday for the West Virginia University Children’s Health Policy Summit to talk about policy issues related to children’s health care.
The event was organized primarily as a celebration of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, more commonly known as CHIP, which over the last 20 years has reduced the childhood uninsured rates in West Virginia to approximately 3 percent.
“We talk a lot about what happens when people or children are connected with health services when they’re young, but we don’t always talk about what happens in the long-term,” said Lindsey Allen, an assistant professor of health economics and policy at West Virginia University.
“And some of the things we’re seeing are that adults that had Medicaid or CHIP when they were younger end up with much better health status as they age and they also end up with much better childhood achievements and additional economic success.”
But CHIP funding is set to expire on September 30th of this year if Congress doesn’t reauthorize the program.
The Senate Finance Committee met yesterday to begin conversations about reauthorization. Rochelle Goodwin, who serves as Senior Associate Vice President for Academic and Public Strategy at West Virginia University said as of late there has been a “seismic shift” in federal health policy.
“We have lots of health care policy questions that are up in the air right now,” she said. “If CHIP is not renewed then states and the federal government need to take a look at what they will do to plug the hole on what has now been a history of about nine million children covered under that program.”
Goodwin said taking a look at how state and federal policies fit together is part of what attendees hope to discuss during the summit. She and Allen both expressed sincere hopes that CHIP would be reauthorized - pointing to not only potentially negative health impacts, but also economic repercussions of reducing access to health care.
“What we’re also seeing with that additional economic success it that people are ending up with higher incomes, which means they’re paying more money into the government pot,” said Allen. “And then we’re also having to spend less in the earned income tax credit that we’re shelling out for these people. So there are a couple different ways that having CHIP and Medicaid access when children are young pay dividends in the long-term.”
About 150 people attended the summit, including former US Secretary for Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and former U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.