Three years ago, Michelle Bell’s son struggled with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. But the working mother in Tupelo, Mississippi, couldn’t afford the help he desperately needed.

As an insurance clerk at a pediatrician’s office, Bell made too much to qualify for Medicaid (“I want to work and earn my way”) yet too little to pay for her company’s health insurance premiums, co-pays and prescriptions.

The cost of residential behavioral treatment in Olive Branch, Mississippi — 86 miles from home — amounted to $1,000 a day for two weeks, far beyond what the family could afford. But in the late 1990s, her son qualified for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a then-new federal program that provides matching funds to states to cover children whose families aren’t eligible for Medicare but don’t earn enough to pay out of pocket, either.

“If I didn’t have insurance, we would still be paying for it for the rest of our lives,” she said.

For the past 18 years, at her job in the pediatrician’s office, Bell has sorted through stacks of medical claims like her own as if she’s solving a puzzle. She thrives on the challenge. Insurance can be tricky to figure out — for her and the families trying to gain or use their coverage, she says. It’s been made more complicated for many families since Congress got sidetracked by efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and missed its Oct. 1 deadline to fund CHIP, which covers 8.3 million children nationwide with low-cost health insurance.

As a result, 31 states and the District of Columbia may run out of federal dollars for the program by March 2018. Mississippi is one of them.

“It’s easier to provide good health in children than to fix medical problems in older people that …read more

Source:: PBS NewsHour – Health

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