Dr. Mahendra Patel, a pediatric cancer doctor, has begun giving away medications to some of his young patients, determined not to disrupt their treatments for serious illnesses like leukemia. He’s worried Congress will fail to renew funding soon for a health program that pays for the care of millions of children across the country.
In his 35 years of practice, Patel, of San Antonio, has seen the lengths to which parents will go for their critically ill children. He has seen couples divorce just to qualify for Medicaid coverage, something he fears will happen if the Children’s Health Insurance Program is axed. “They are looking at you and begging for their child’s life,” he said.
The months-long failure on Capitol Hill to pass a long-term extension to CHIP, which provides health coverage to 9 million lower-income children, portends serious health consequences for many of them.
About 1.7 million children in 20 states and the District of Columbia could be at risk of losing their CHIP coverage in February because of the funding shortfall, according to a report released Wednesday by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.