Will Congress Ignore 8.9 Million CHIP Children?

CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, insures nearly 8.9 million children across all 50 states. Funded in partnership by the Federal Government and individual states, it supports children not qualified for Medicaid. However, if they live in households with income within prescribed range of the national poverty level ($40,840 for a family of 3) CHIP covers them. States control the program’s administration and eligibility. Some separate it from their Medicaid program. Other states expand their Medicaid program by including CHIP, and a few states create a hybrid model including both. To the surprise of many, this program has suddenly found itself on shaky ground. Will Congress ignore 8.9 million children?

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How CHIP Expiring Affects Children

For the first time since CHIP began, Congress failed to sign re-authorization for funding, leaving 8.9 million children in healthcare limbo. Coverage, without federal funding, depends on individual state’s ability to support their programs without it. Recent reports estimate 11 states will run out of CHIP funds by year’s end, with another 32 expecting depletion by March 2018.

With polarized views on healthcare and politics, numerous recent natural disasters, and an aggressive White House agenda ahead of a midterm elections, morale is low. But, on October 26, 2017, House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) announced a vote for re-authorization scheduled for next week. There might be some offsets that cause disagreement, but most believe a 5 year re-authorization will be signed. Unless passage occurs, many are left to wonder what will happen to their coverage.

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What Happens When Federal Funding Runs Out?

Existing allocated funds, individual state CHIP structure, and related state legislation will impact coverage stability. States like Nevada and Minnesota anticipate fund depletion by the end of November. Arizona and other states enact mandatory freezes, if federal funding decreases. Some states can disband the program altogether. Others continue coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate, impacting state costs sharply. Extraordinary numbers of children risk losing health coverage, coverage for future clients will be unavailable, and some states will see large increases in costs to continue coverage.

CHIP Helps Insure Millions of Children

Prior to CHIP being signed into law in 1997, the national uninsured child rate was near 14%. Over the last 20 years, this number steadily decreased to the 5% rate reported for 2017. Uninsured status among those 8.9 million children will rise exponentially if CHIP dies quietly in its sleep. Consider New Jersey, with a 2016 recorded population of 8.9 million. This is the scale of loss should the program go unfunded. All 8.9 million being children.

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Call your state’s CHIP administrator or your elected state officials for details specific to your state and coverage status. For more information, leave a comment below or contact us!

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