CHIP Families Still at Risk Despite Temporary Funding Extension
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which currently provides comprehensive health coverage to roughly 9 million children and pregnant women across the United States, is still in danger following Congress’ inability to pass a long-term funding solution. On Dec. 22nd, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) that extended funding for the program through the end of March 2018. The National Council is deeply concerned for the future of this critical program, and urges Congress to act swiftly to extend CHIP for the millions of children and families who rely on it.
CURRENT STATE OF CHIP FUNDING
Federal funding for CHIP officially expired at the end of September, leaving states scrambling to continue coverage for their beneficiaries. Since then, multiple proposals have been considered to extend CHIP funding for five years, but none have yet been successful. Earlier in November, the House approved reauthorization of the program, but the Senate has not yet taken action following Democrats’ concerns over the specific funding mechanisms that would take money from other health programs to fund CHIP.
As it currently stands, CHIP has been funded by a continuing resolution through March 31, but the future of the program remains unclear. With Congress back in session, legislators are crunched for time to sort out funding for federal programs before the looming federal government funding deadline of January 19th. Advocates hope for a long-term solution for CHIP to be passed alongside any upcoming federal spending package. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), one of the original co-sponsors of the legislation that created CHIP, gave assurance in his retirement announcement earlier this week that the program is “to be reauthorized this month.”
MOUNTING CONCERNS IN STATES
Most states rely heavily on federal funding to continue their CHIP programs, and some are scrambling to use reallocated money to keep the program running in the short-term. Following the programs’ lapse in funding at the end of September, some states sent letters to families with children enrolled in CHIP, letting them know that their programs may be shutting down in the near future. Since the passage of the CR, Colorado, a state that had already sent out notices, has pushed its expected closure date back to the end of February. Other states like West Virginia have frozen enrollment until a long-term solution can be found.
A statement released by a number of leading children’s health, medical, and advocacy organizations said that the short-term funding solution is not enough to keep states from shutting their doors, and is simply causing chaos on the ground. “Congress’ failure to extend CHIP funding long-term has resulted in a manufactured emergency that has real consequences for children, families and pregnant women,” the group said. “Right now, the greatest threat to children’s health care coverage is congressional inaction.”