November 27, 2017
States are preparing for a popular children’s health insurance program to end because of congressional inaction.
Nine million low-income children are set to lose health care coverage if Congress doesn’t act soon.
Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program known as CHIP is running out after Congress missed a September deadline to renew it for another five years.
It provides block funding to state health programs for low-income children and pregnant women.
The popular law took effect 20 years ago, and has enjoyed bipartisan support since.
It cut the uninsured rate for kids by more than half and reduced hospitalization rates, which cuts down on health care costs overall.
CHIP is also credited with improving children’s educational outcomes, and their families economic well being.
Some state governments are preparing for the program to end if Congress doesn’t reach an agreement, while the center for Medicare and Medicaid has granted more than $60 million in emergency funds since Congress missed its deadline.
At least 11 states will run out of funding by the end December with many more unable to keep funding the program beyond a month or two into 2018.
A dozen states are drafting letters notifying parents their kids will no longer have insurance, which officials fear will throw the health care system into chaos as families lose their providers.
It will also affect children with chronic illnesses, who are endangered each time there is a gap in coverage.
States are spending personnel hours figuring out how to freeze the program or un-enroll people, something never done before, as they wait for Congress to act.
Oregon is taking a different approach with Governor Kate Brown ordering the state’s health office to continue running the program using state funds.
Several lawmakers have promised the funding is not at risk, but have yet to move a bill through Congress.
The Senate Finance Committee introduced a bill funding CHIP without any offsets, but the Senate failed to make a deal on where the money will come from.
While funding for the program could be part of a large spending bill at the end of the year, there’s still no agreement on how to pay for it.