Congress still hasn't made a move on CHIP -- and 2 million children could lose health insurance in January

Robert Johnson for Business InsiderThe deadline for CHIP reauthorization passed in September without Congress agreeing to an extension.
  • An estimated 2 million children could lose health insurance in January if Congress doesn’t reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to a recent study.
  • States around the country are quickly running out of funding.
  • CHIP provides coverage for roughly 9 million children and pregnant women nationwide.

Health insurance for millions of children is on the line as Congress remains divided over how to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a crucial government program that provides coverage for roughly 9 million Americans.

Dozens of states are at risk of running out of funding as early as January, but Congress has still not been able to agree to a longterm funding extension or stopgap measure to keep CHIP running. A failure to reauthorize funding by Friday, when lawmakers break for the holiday recess, could lead to dire consequences for families around the country.

An estimated 1.9 million children could lose coverage next month if no longterm funding plan is reached, according to a report published Wednesday from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families. The study also warned that an additional 1 million children are at risk of losing coverage by the end of February.

On December 7, Congress passed a temporary measure that allowed 20 states to access part of a $US2.9 billion redistribution fund to maintain coverage for their children through the rest of the year. But no new money from the government was added to the pot, and the reallocation of funds actually caused “31 states to run out of money more quickly than previously estimated,” according to the Georgetown study.

The reauthorization deadline for CHIP passed on September 30, making it the longest lapse in funding in the program’s history. While the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services has reallocated carryover funds from previous years and given emergency grants to the most vulnerable states, those funds are quickly running out.

CHIP has wide bipartisan support. The program provides health insurance for children and pregnant women who come from families with incomes just above Medicaid eligibility levels. Since its implementation in 1997, the program has drastically reduced the uninsured rate of children from about 15% in 1997 to 4.5% in 2016.

But exactly how the annual $US15.6 billion program should be paid for is the issue under dispute. Republicans have proposed cutting back the Affordable Care Act – commonly known as Obamacare – to pay for CHIP, while Democrats have proposed tying the program’s reauthorization in with measures to stabilise Obamacare insurance markets.

But some remain hopeful that a deal can eventually be reached.

“We’re going to do CHIP,” Utah Sen. Orin Hatch said earlier this month. “There’s no doubt about it in my mind.”

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