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The state has also announced that it will be forced to terminate coverage altogether on Feb. 1 if Congress fails to act.
Officials in Alabama announced Monday that they plan to freeze enrollment for ALL KIDS, the state’s children’s health insurance program starting on Jan. 1 if Congress does not renew the funding for the program. Alabama is the first state to announce such a measure.
The Monday announcement also warns beneficiaries that the ALL KIDS program will be terminated on Feb. 1 if Congressional inaction continues that far into 2018. The program covers as many as 150,000 of Alabama’s kids, and as many as 84,000 young people are at risk of losing their health care coverage if the program is shut down altogether.
Alabama isn’t the only state facing tough choices. Virginia and Colorado have also notified beneficiaries that their coverage is at risk, but both states have chosen to allow children to continue to enroll all the way up to the potential termination date. As many as sixteen other states are projected to see their CHIP funding run out by the end of January.
States have frozen enrollment for CHIP before. And disruptions to these state programs have been shown to have a lasting impact on the rate of children covered by health insurance.
Researchers from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, for example, point to Arizona’s CHIP freeze experiment as a “cautionary tale.”
Arizona enacted a freeze on its CHIP program in December 2009. By July 2011, the waiting list for that program had swelled to include more than 100,000 kids. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the waiting list continued to grow at a rate of 10,000 kids every month.
Quinn Libson is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.