Kids Are Counting on Congress to Protect Their Health

University of Chicago medical students rally for reauthorization

Colorado's governor is asking state lawmakers for emergency funding to keep a children's health insurance program, CHIP, operating because Congress hasn't decided how to keep it going.

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Greg Walden of OR, said last week that the CHIP extension will be included in the short-term government funding bill to be considered by lawmakers later this week. While the commonwealth's traditional dedication to providing adequate health care for its citizens ensures that the program will remain a top political priority, harmful cuts will have to be made elsewhere in the state budget to pick up the slack.

The Republican-controlled House has voted to extend the 20-year-old program for five years and would fund it by charging richer Medicare enrollees higher premiums and taking money from a public health fund created under the Affordable Care Act. Some states have sent letters or posted notices on their website warning families that, without new funding from Congress, their CHIP programs could shutter at the end of January.

But the money is running out.

Craig Ulmer, the Interim CEO of Community Health Net says they treat several patients covered under CHIP, but the organization also has a discounted services plan so if they were to lose coverage, health care is still available. The number grows by another million children by the end of February. The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helps fill a critical gap for children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to purchase private insurance.

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"Connecticut has been able to continue offering HUSKY B ... by using leftover federal funding". They disagreed with what GOP leaders used to off-set the cost of the program.

Since CHIP's enactment, the share of uninsured children fell from 13.9 percent in 1997 to 4.5 percent in 2015, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. But Alabama health officials say they will likely close the program in the new year if Congress doesn't renew funding.

The short-term fix will probably also run into problems since the parties are divided over the government spending bill as well.

"For the families and almost 9 million children who rely on CHIP for their health care, this is highly disappointing", Bruce Lesley, president of the children and families health advocacy group, First Focus, wrote in an email. President Donald Trump made the decision months ago that in March, the program will end.

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