Children’s Health Insurance Program Extended for Six Years

By Halley Taylor, L’19

 

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), was created in 1997 to provide health insurance to children and, in some states, pregnant mothers in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private insurance.[1] Today, CHIP provides approximately 8.4 million children and 370,000 expectant mothers with health insurance[2], including 65,000 children and 1,100 expectant mothers in Virginia.[3] However, until January 22, when Congress extended funding for the program for another six years, families receiving CHIP benefits faced the very real possibility of a world in which they would be unable to afford health insurance, as funding for the program was quickly running out.[4]

 

For any child, regardless of their health, the majority of their brain development occurs before they begin kindergarten.[5] For this reason, it is essential that young children receive consistent preventive and primary health-care.[6] For children from low income families, who more often lack access to medical care and who may receive only fragmented or limited services from clinics or emergency rooms, CHIP makes consistent healthcare attainable.[7] According to former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, CHIP in Virginia paid for 218,190 immunizations and 221,309 well-child checkups.[8] Nationwide, CHIP has influenced the decline in the percentage of American children without health insurance, which fell to 4.5 percent in 2016, down from almost 14 percent twenty years ago.[9]

 

Despite the positive changes CHIP has brought to many families, plans to renew the program fell through in late September of 2017.[10] Though the federal government took steps to temporarily extend funding for CHIP and promised a long-term solution, concern continued to grow until late January,[11] when Congress extended funding for the program for another six years.[12]

 

By early December 2017, many states, including Virginia, faced the possibility of running out of funding for CHIP by the end of January.[13] To prepare CHIP recipients, Virginia officials sent a letter, dated December 11, warning them of the potential exhaustion of funding.[14]

 

On December 21, Congress authorized an additional $2.85 billion meant to last until the end of March, with the hope that a permanent solution would be in place by that time.[15] Despite the increased funding, federal health-care officials said the money would not last that long, and some states still faced a mid-January loss of funding.[16] Children’s health advocates said that Congress should have known the short-term funding plan was insufficient.[17]

 

Uncertainty continued to build as CMS changed its estimates about how much money each state would receive from the $2.85 billion allocated by Congress.[18] Additionally, as part of another patch fix made in early December, CMS was redistributing states’ unused funds, drying up resources for states like Virginia much faster than expected.[19] According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the hope was that CHIP would be extended by the continuing budget resolution deadline on January 19.[20] However, no decision was made on CHIP or on the budget, and the government shut down at midnight on January 19th.[21] As senior GOP aides expected, the CHIP decision had been pushed aside again.[22]

 

Finally, on January 22, Congress authorized a six-year funding extension for CHIP.[23] Families who just weeks prior were rushing to create medication reserves to get them through the transition[24] can now breathe easier knowing that, at least for now, their children’s health insurance is here to stay.

[1] Meridith McGraw, Thousands of Kids Could Lose Health Insurance Next Month if Congress Doesn’t Act Fast, ABC News (Nov. 29, 2017), http://abcnews.go.com/Health/thousands-kids-lose-health-insurance-month-congress-act/story?id=51407468.

[2] Michael Ollove, End of Children’s Health Insurance Program Looming in Colorado, Virginia, The Pew Charitable Trusts (Nov. 21, 2017), http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/11/21/end-of-childrens-health-insurance-program-looming-in-colorado-virginia.

[3] Amanda Michelle Gomez, Another State to Warn CHIP Families That Insurance Might End Because Congress Failed to Act, ThinkProgress (Dec. 11, 2017), https://thinkprogress.org/virginia-chip-congress-a3a5867537ca/.

[4] Summary of the 2018 CHIP Funding Extension, Henry J. Kaiser Fam. Found. (Jan. 24, 2018), https://www.kff.org/medicaid/fact-sheet/summary-of-the-2018-chip-funding-extension/.

[5] About CHIP, CHIP of Virginia, http://chipofvirginia.org/about-chip/ (last visited Jan. 14, 2018).

[6] About CHIP, CHIP of Virginia, http://chipofvirginia.org/about-chip/ (last visited Jan. 14, 2018).

[7] About CHIP, CHIP of Virginia, http://chipofvirginia.org/about-chip/ (last visited Jan. 14, 2018).

[8] Allison Brophy Champion, Virginia Congressmen, Senators Back Reauthorizing Children’s Health Insurance Program, Fredericksburg.com (Dec. 16, 2017), http://www.fredericksburg.com/news/healthy_living/virginia-congressmen-senators-back-reauthorizing-children-s-health-insurance-program/article_974bab6a-855a-58fa-a245-fe8b7358f9ba.html.

[9] Noam N. Levey, Parents Agonize Over Their Kids’ Health as Funding for Children’s Insurance Program Remains in Doubt, Los Angeles Times (Jan. 9, 2018), http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-childrens-health-insurance-20180109-story.html.

[10] Selena Simmons-Duffin, States Sound Warning that Kids’ Health Insurance is at Risk, National Public Radio, Inc. (Nov. 30, 2017), https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/11/30/567267266/states-sound-warning-that-chip-kids-health-insurance-is-at-risk.

[11] Susan Luthi, Short-Term CHIP Patches Threaten to Undermine State Programs, Modern Healthcare (Jan. 5, 2018), http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180105/NEWS/180109949.

[12] Summary of the 2018 CHIP Funding Extension, Henry J. Kaiser Fam. Found. (Jan. 24, 2018), https://www.kff.org/medicaid/fact-sheet/summary-of-the-2018-chip-funding-extension/.

[13] Amanda Michelle Gomez, Another State to Warn CHIP Families That Insurance Might End Because Congress Failed to Act, ThinkProgress (Dec. 11, 2017), https://thinkprogress.org/virginia-chip-congress-a3a5867537ca/.

[14] Amanda Michelle Gomez, Another State to Warn CHIP Families That Insurance Might End Because Congress Failed to Act, ThinkProgress (Dec. 11, 2017), https://thinkprogress.org/virginia-chip-congress-a3a5867537ca/.

[15] Phil Galewitz, CHIP Funding Could Run Out on Jan. 19 For Some States, National Public Radio, Inc. (Jan. 5, 2018), https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/01/05/576096900/chip-funding-could-run-out-on-jan-19-for-some-states.

[16] Phil Galewitz, CHIP Funding Could Run Out on Jan. 19 For Some States, National Public Radio, Inc. (Jan. 5, 2018), https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/01/05/576096900/chip-funding-could-run-out-on-jan-19-for-some-states.

[17] Phil Galewitz, CHIP Funding Could Run Out on Jan. 19 For Some States, National Public Radio, Inc. (Jan. 5, 2018), https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/01/05/576096900/chip-funding-could-run-out-on-jan-19-for-some-states (“’The math never worked on the patch, as it only bought a few weeks,’ says Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a child advocacy group.”).

[18] Susan Luthi, Short-Term CHIP Patches Threaten to Undermine State Programs, Modern Healthcare (Jan. 5, 2018), http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180105/NEWS/180109949.

[19] Susan Luthi, Short-Term CHIP Patches Threaten to Undermine State Programs, Modern Healthcare (Jan. 5, 2018), http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180105/NEWS/180109949.

[20] Susan Luthi, Short-Term CHIP Patches Threaten to Undermine State Programs, Modern Healthcare (Jan. 5, 2018), http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180105/NEWS/180109949.

[21] Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Thomas Kaplan, Government Shutdown Begins as Budget Talks Falter in Senate, New York Times (Jan. 19, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/19/us/politics/senate-showdown-government-shutdown-trump.html.

[22] Susan Luthi, Short-Term CHIP Patches Threaten to Undermine State Programs, Modern Healthcare (Jan. 5, 2018), http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180105/NEWS/180109949.

[23] Summary of the 2018 CHIP Funding Extension, Henry J. Kaiser Fam. Found. (Jan. 24, 2018), https://www.kff.org/medicaid/fact-sheet/summary-of-the-2018-chip-funding-extension/.

[24] Noam N. Levey, Parents Agonize Over Their Kids’ Health as Funding for Children’s Insurance Program Remains in Doubt, Los Angeles Times (Jan. 9, 2018), http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-childrens-health-insurance-20180109-story.html.

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