Updated on July 21, 2016
Before I gave birth, I made three calls: one to Oscar, my health-insurance company; one to the New York state exchange through which I receive my insurance, thanks to the Affordable Care Act; and one to Child Health Plus, New York’s “health insurance program for kids,” through which my toddler daughter receives her coverage and with which I wanted to enroll my son.
No problem, a representative of Oscar assured me. My infant would be covered under my plan for the first 48 hours.
No problem, a representative of the New York State of Health assured me. Call from the hospital and we’ll get your son enrolled.
No problem, a representative of Child Health Plus assured me. We’ll be able to enroll your son.
That was in March. On May 1, my infant son’s health insurance through Child Health Plus finally kicked in—six weeks after he was born.
New York’s Child Health Plus (CHP) program predates the Affordable Care Act but has been absorbed into it and is now available via various providers, such as Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. In 2001, the Times called CHP “one of the country's most successful insurance programs for poor children.” As of this year, over 200,000 children are covered by CHP. Enrollment is straightforward and, compared to many employer-provided and Obamacare family plans, it is affordable. But it is not immediate. What no one told me is that CHP is not obligated by the state to backdate coverage of qualified newborn infants so as to guarantee them health insurance from their first day of life.