Consequences of Cuts to CHIP Programs Will Be Seen in the Future Health Problems of Adults, Op-Ed Says
As states scale back or impose limits on their CHIP programs, many children will become uninsured and unable to receive proper preventive care, thus raising the potential that they will face greater health problems as adults, Neal Halfon, director of the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, and Peter Long, a UCLA doctoral candidate, write in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece (Halfon/Long, Los Angeles Times, 3/3). On Feb. 25, the Times reported that due to budget deficits, many states are altering their CHIP programs to trim costs. For example, Utah and Montana froze or capped CHIP program enrollment; Oklahoma and New Mexico considered dropping children from their programs; Idaho stopped marketing its program; Kentucky made its enrollment process more difficult; and Rhode Island introduced monthly premiums (California Healthline, 2/25). As benefits are cut, the number of uninsured children will increase, and as a consequence, sick children will get sicker, Halfon and Long write. Further, uninsured children who do not have access to preventive care and developmental assessments provided under the CHIP program "will develop preventable physical and mental problems [in childhood] that may impede their ability to learn."
However, the "biggest problems" that will result from scaling back CHIP programs are the future health problems of adults who as children could have received benefits under CHIP programs, Halfon and Long maintain. Halfon and Long say that epidemiologic studies have proven links between experiencess in early life and later health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and asthma. In addition, the authors note that CHIP not only "raised the hope that every child in every state could be insured" but also that "the primary health thrust for children could shift from merely getting them insured to promoting optimum health and development." Imposing cuts and limits to CHIP programs "keep[s] children from reaching [that] potential" and guarantees "greater future health care costs," Halfon and Long write. Calling cutbacks to children's health programs "scandalous," Halfon and Long say that "the consequences of cutting back on children's health care may not be immediately apparent. In the end, though, society will bear the costs" (Halfon/Long, Los Angeles Times, 3/3).