Report: Obamacare Glitch Could Endanger Coverage For Millions Of Kids

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One of Obamacare’s ongoing structural problems is preventing close to 2 million low-income children from getting affordable health coverage, according to a report from the American Action Forum, a free market think tank.

The so-called “family glitch” is a well-known problem with Obamacare’s treatment of what it means for an employer to offer affordable health coverage. The health-care law doesn’t offer subsidies to workers whose employer offers what the federal government deems affordable coverage — but doesn’t consider whether employer coverage for workers’ families is affordable as well. The structure potentially bans spouses and children from receiving Obamacare’s much-touted help with premium payments while their available insurance is extremely costly.

But the glitch also prevents children who would be eligible to participate in the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, a program to insure low-income children, from getting access to their own subsidized coverage if the program is to end when it’s up for reauthorization this year.

While CHIP is supposed to help those who don’t earn enough to purchase their own children health insurance but earn too much for Medicaid coverage, Obamacare doesn’t have its own solution for children’s coverage. When the program is up for its review this year, AAF warns that ending it and assuming Obamacare will take care of the rest could leave many children without access to coverage.

“This flaw in the ACA’s design prevents an estimated 1.9 million children from having access to subsidized health insurance through the Exchange,” American Action Forum health care analysts Angela Boothe and Christopher Holt wrote Tuesday.

Obamacare’s weaknesses means Congress should keep CHIP around past this year, AAF argues, but with some changes.

“Because of the loopholes in the ACA, some children will still need CHIP, but any reauthorization of the program should be designed and funded in a way that allows states to meet the needs of their changing CHIP populations, streamlines program operations and maintains beneficiary responsibility,” Boothe and Holt wrote.

While it’s unlikely that the program would be entirely discontinued, some states may make changes that could disadvantage children that fall int0 the glitch gap. Georgetown University health reform analysts warned in September that several states had already discontinued their CHIP programs in light of Obamacare, and more may follow suit.

While children’s coverage until CHIP will only be endangered if Congress fails to reauthorize the program, many families not eligible for CHIP are still currently banned from some of Obamacare’s cushier benefits. Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that the average cost of health coverage for families is as high as $15,700 per year.

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Sarah Hurtubise