Bill Introduced to Extend Children’s Health Insurance Program Through 2019
Late last month, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) introduced legislation that would reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is set to expire in 2015 under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. The CHIP Extension and Improvement Act of 2014 (H.R. 5364) is a companion bill to legislation introduced by Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) in June. Without congressional action, millions of children and pregnant women could be left without health insurance when the program’s authorization expires next year.
Both the House and Senate reauthorization bills extend CHIP funding through 2019. Additionally, both bills would make Express Lane Eligibility (ELE) a permanent option for states in an effort to continue streamlined enrollment. ELE was created in the Children Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 as an optional program for states. It has since been reauthorized twice and is set to expire in 2015. This streamlined process allows states to determine children’s Medicaid and CHIP eligibility based on data they supplied for enrollment in other public assistance programs. ELE reduces the administrative burdens for both states and beneficiaries and has saved an average of $1 million per year in administrative costs to states, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Reps. Pallone and Waxman were original authors of the CHIP program when it was first enacted in 1997. Today, the program provides health insurance to more than 8 million children and pregnant women whose incomes exceed that of the Medicaid eligibility level in their state. The coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act were intended to eliminate the need for CHIP by expanding Medicaid in all states, providing every individual with an option for health insurance. However, in 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not require states to expand Medicaid, leaving the decision to the states. So far, 26 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid, covering more than 7.2 million previously uninsured people. In the 24 states that have yet to expand Medicaid, CHIP has played an integral role ensuring that children and pregnant women do not go without health insurance. Should CHIP expire, millions of these children and pregnant women could lose their only option for health coverage.