Print Friendly and PDFPrinter Friendly Version

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

CHIP Funding Set to Expire—If Congress Doesn’t Act

Shannon Attanasio

Senior Director of Government Affairs

Anyone concerned about affordable health care in the United States is rightly focused on the upcoming second open enrollment period and Medicaid expansion in the states. But there’s another important effort that demands advocates’ attention—extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Now is the time to ramp up awareness of the funding crisis threatening CHIP and enlist the support of lawmakers to defend it. If Congress does not act in the coming year, millions of children will be left without affordable health insurance next October. Funding for the program is set to expire on September 30, 2015.

Last week’s Senate hearing is a welcome step toward renewing funding for CHIP. Additionally, two bills—one in the Senate and another in the House—have been introduced by Democrats in Congress. Both bills propose new funding for CHIP, along with several improvements to the program. Families USA is very encouraged to see congressional activity on CHIP; we believe this is a sign of good things to come.

CHIP provides affordable, accessible coverage to millions of children

Since CHIP’s inception in the late 1990s, this federal-state partnership health insurance program for low-income children in working families has helped to dramatically reduce the rate of uninsured children—from 14 percent in 1997 to 7 percent today. Close to six million children have health insurance through CHIP. And thanks in part to CHIP, 93 percent of children in America have health coverage. 

Like Medicaid enrollees, children with CHIP coverage have better access to care than uninsured children—especially when it comes to access to specialists, including dental care. Cost-sharing protections in CHIP are strong for low-income children and families. And monthly premiums and out-of pocket-costs are usually lower than those found in private insurance. 

CHIP offers affordable health care to children and families in the coverage gap

CHIP covers many children that would otherwise fall into a gap in health coverage known as the “family glitch.” This coverage gap in the Affordable Care Act could prevent up to two million  children from getting affordable coverage in the health insurance marketplace. 

Additionally, recent research has found that CHIP offers more robust, child-appropriate benefits for children—including dental care—compared with marketplace coverage. 

Health care experts are taking these issues into consideration and recommending that Congress extend CHIP. For example, in a June 2014 report, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment Access Commission (MACPAC) recommended that Congress extend CHIP for two years to allow time to make policy changes that would make the Affordable Care Act better serve children. These changes include fixing the family glitch, addressing overall affordability, and making benefits in the marketplaces comparable to those that children currently receive through CHIP.

Extending CHIP requires bipartisan support in Congress and increased pressure from advocates

From the start, CHIP has had support from Republicans and Democrats. It will depend on bipartisan support to continue.

In late July 2014, both the chairs and ranking members of the two congressional committees (the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Finance Committee—both of which have federal jurisdiction over CHIP) sent a bipartisan letter to all governors asking them to provide analysis and insights on their CHIP programs. 

We encourage advocates to reach out to their governors and request that they respond to this letter by October 31, 2014. 

Congress intended CHIP to remain a key program for children’s coverage

While the Affordable Care Act has significantly expanded access to health coverage, it was intended to build on our existing health care programs, including both Medicaid and CHIP—not replace them. 

It is imperative that governors, state legislators, and consumer health care advocates push to extend CHIP funding. Advocates can reach out to their governors, state legislators, and other state leaders asking that they work with Congress to engage in the conversation to extend CHIP funding. 

CHIP is an economic lifeline that delivers peace of mind for millions of working families. Allowing the funding for CHIP to lapse would be a grave mistake and put millions of children’s health at risk.

To see state-specific information on CHIP, the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) has created very helpful fact sheets you can use as a resource.