The passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Re-authorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) has cleared the way for states to expand coverage for children when they are left vulnerable from rampant unemployment. Several states have taken advantage of the additional funding made available by the act. Among them are Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, Oregon and Alabama. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, North Carolina would do well to follow the lead of the states expanding coverage for children.
Although controlled by conservative Democrats, the Alabama legislature saw the writing on the wall during the budget process. They realized that the recession and unemployment were affecting families and children across the state, and made a bold move: increasing the eligibility for ALL Kids, Alabama’s child health care, from 200% of the federal poverty level to 300% of the poverty level. This change will expand coverage for 14,000 more children in the state in the coming year. Legislators seized the opportunity to use federal recovery dollars to expand on a program that will help the families hardest hit by the recession. By spending about 8 million dollars more in state funds, the state secured roughly 30 million more dollars in federal funds. Additionally, Senate Republicans in Kansas led an effort to expand eligibility to 250% of the federal poverty line.
A recent Budget & Tax Center brief found that for every one dollar put into children’s health care, the state receives three dollars of federal money. Those three dollars represent money that otherwise wouldn’t be flowing into the state to speed recovery form the recession. Is the state willing to leave that money on the table? More importantly, will North Carolina state leaders fail our children at a time when they are the most desperate? Lets hope not.