MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Last month, Congress failed to renew the Children's Health Insurance Program, which means state Medicaid funding could be slashed, and a pivotal Alabama program, called All Kids that insures thousands of low income children, could be dismantled.
Experts describe All Kids as a bridge between those in desperate need of assistance and those just moderately getting by.
“They make just a little too much to be put on Medicaid and can’t really afford to get insurance on the exchange, so All Kids was designed to be able to provide comprehensive care for that pocket of people," said Teek Patnaik, the Executive Director of Heals Clinic INC.
Patnaik says, if anything, All Kids should have been expanded.
“Underfunded, over needed," he explained.
Instead, unless Congress intervenes in the 11th hour, it could leave up to 80,000 Alabama children uninsured.
Looking at last year's Childhood Health Insurance Program allotment, $165 million went towards Medicaid funding for children in the state, where about $198 million went towards the All Kids Program.
If Congress doesn’t renew those federal dollars, the $165 million for Medicaid will have to come from another source, and All Kids could disappear all together.
Patnaik says, this will impact 25 percent of students that come to Heals Clinics across Madison County.
“Our goal is to have them not use an emergency room like a doctor’s office, but unfortunately for people that are going to be in this situation, that might be their only option to get care," said Patnaik.
He said, students that lose coverage under All Kids who attend the schools where Heals clinics are located, can continue to receive care, but for everyone else, they'll have to look elsewhere.
“Unfortunately it wouldn’t carry over if they aren’t a student at that site school," he said.
Patnaik said that will put a strain on the clinics themselves, since they rely so heavily on federal insurance reimbursements.
“We’re very limited. Those are one of the two insurances that we have so you’re talking about already being on a two legged stool and chopping one of the legs off," said Patnaik.
He hopes Congress can find a way to do something, so that all kids can live healthy all the time.
“We hope that we can make a compromise, and still keep with it and not do away with the program all together," he said.
State leaders say, if Congress doesn't act soon, they'll be forced to begin the months-long process of dismantling the All Kids program.
In the meantime, they say they'll continue to operate normally.