CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Extending CHIP health coverage to eligible children of public employees could save state and local government millions of dollars, depending on how many actually enrolled, according to a report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will consider expanding CHIP coverage, a spokeswoman said.
The Affordable Care Act includes a lesser-known provision allowing states to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program to public employees' children who are eligible under the program's income guidelines. The CHIP program was formerly closed to state and local employees' families.
"We do anticipate that this is going to save money for state and local governments and save households money," said Brandon Merritt, a health policy analyst for WVCBP, a nonpartisan policy research organization.
Just how much money is saved depends on how many eligible children are enrolled.
If all 8,800 CHIP-eligible children currently enrolled in the Public Employees Insurance Agency switched to CHIP, state and local governments could save $6.7 million a year, and PEIA member families could save $4.7 million a year, according to the report. But if the participation rate was lower -- 21.4 percent -- which is the same as the current CHIP take-up rate, around 1,880 would enroll in CHIP and state and local governments would save $1.4 million, the report finds. Member families would save $1 million a year, according to the report.
CHIP is currently open to children in families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line --$70,650 for a family of four -- and who are under the age of 19, with the exception of state and local government employees' children.
Tomblin has the authority to expand the coverage to state and local employees, but as of yet, has not done so.
"Prior to the passage of the ACA this was something that could not be considered," Tomblin's spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said in an email to the Gazette. "The CHIP board will need to file a state plan amendment. This is something we will consider."
Merritt said, in a sense, public employees who are otherwise eligible for CHIP are being discriminated against. They may not enroll in the program but others who make the same amount they do, can.