LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas children and pregnant women who are covered by a federal health insurance program will continue to be covered until the end of March. But the plan’s future after that is uncertain. Congress hasn’t reauthorized funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers more than 48,000 children and pregnant women in Arkansas. The $15 billion program covers nearly 9 million children and 370,000 pregnant women nationwide.
The program provides low-premium coverage to people who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but who can’t afford to buy private health insurance. The plan will end in March if not renewed.
Officials with Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said they want to see Congress act soon to extend the program.
“If you walked into work and were told that you only had health insurance for the next four months, how would you feel about that?” said Marcy Doderer, CEO of Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
The U.S. House voted in November to reauthorize the program for five years in part by cutting a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prevention fund and increasing Medicare rates for higher-earning seniors. All four of Arkansas’ representatives voted in favor of the bill. The Senate has agreed on a bill but not on a method of funding the program.
The Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is “absolutely” concerned about reauthorization, said Marquita Little, the organization’s health policy director. Little said she’s glad Arkansas’ members of Congress support the program. Doderer said those concerned should interact with advocacy groups or call their federal lawmakers.