Concerns grow after Congress allows CHIP to expire

Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Eligibility Requirements | HealthCare.gov

Without the federal funding, it will fall on the state's Health and Human Services Commission (an agency which is now in "disarray") to fix the problem - or risk leaving one million kids uninsured.

Known as CHIP at the federal level, the health insurance program covers about 9 million kids nationwide in low- to moderate-income households. State officials are already discussing whether they could continue the program if federal CHIP funding isn't reauthorized, Capriotti said.

Congress allowed the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides low-priced health insurance to 9 million children, to expire. But unlike other Medicaid recipients, these children's care is 100 percent funded with no state contribution.

Matt Highland, a Department of Human Services official, said Monday that Iowa has enough money to last through next March but, with no other allotments, funding would be depleted sometime in the quarter ending June 30.

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CHIP, created in 1997, was one of the incremental health-reform initiatives taken during the Clinton administration after the defeat of Hillarycare.

Still, several Democrats in Congress were quick to blame the lapse on Republican colleagues, whom they said had gotten sidetracked by the now-stalled Graham-Cassidy bill, which would have repealed the Affordable Care Act. Around 125,000 Oklahoma kids get everything from immunizations to inpatient care through CHIP. A few states facing the most pressing threat - including California and Arizona - have enough funding to last only until the end of the year.

"States don't want to have to disenroll their kids", said Maureen Hensley-Quinn, senior program director at National Academy for State Health Policy, a non-partisan group that advises states on health policy. "CHIP has a proven track record of success, stemming from its adherence to the fundamental principles of state administrative flexibility, personal responsibility, and innovation aimed at enhancing health outcomes for beneficiaries".

Arizona joined the federal program in 2001 under Gov. Jane Hull, a Republican. "But, they need to know very soon that addition money will be coming so they'll know how they can continue their programs".

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Many CHIP recipients make use of smaller community health centers such as Valley Health Systems, based in Huntington, which treats 442 patients covered through CHIP. However, the program expired over the weekend as Congress failed to pass an extension.

That change alone, he said, would boost state spending by $10 million to $15 million. Yet despite that victory, the GOP is playing politics with reauthorizing the funds. This is going to add even additional pressure, and that's a big concern if Congress doesn't act.

Capito said strong, bipartisan support for re-authorization is cause for confidence CHIP will be continued as the bill is worked and reworked in the Senate Finance Committee through Tuesday. Members of Congress had discussed voting to renew the program but did not do so in time for the new fiscal year.

The Senate drafted a standalone CHIP reauthorization bill in early September, but the House has yet to come up with its bill. Many states operate their CHIP programs as part of Medicaid.

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The funding renewal was not a priority among Republican leaders, who have spent most of this year trying to replace the Affordable Care Act and dramatically overhaul the Medicaid program.

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