Fighting to Keep Child Health Plus Alive
Posted March, 11 2015 by Amanda
Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will run out in September 2015 unless Congress agrees to extend it. A failure to do so would undermine children’s health insurance in all 50 states, including New York.
A brief background of CHIP and Child Health Plus
Created in 1997, CHIP has helped states like New York achieve nearly universal coverage by offering affordable, comprehensive coverage to children who don’t qualify for Medicaid. CHIP provides federal matching funds to state governments, allowing them to operate health insurance programs that are tailored to the specific needs of children in that state. The product of a Republican-controlled Congress and a Democratic president, CHIP is a bipartisan success story.
Of the eight million children who rely on CHIP today, half a million live in New York State, where all children who are residents under the age of 19 are eligible for the state’s version of CHIP, Child Health Plus (CHP). Families who earn below 400 percent of the federal poverty level can get subsidies to help them afford CHP.
Where’s the funding, Congress?
New York and other states are now drawing up their budgets for the next fiscal year. With CHIP’s funding slated to run out in mere months, governors and legislators, as well as families, need assurance that funding will continue. Governor Cuomo of N.Y. and 38 other governors have sent letters urging immediate renewal of CHIP and warning of the disruption any delays may cause for families who rely on CHIP.
In mid-February, Senate and House Democrats released two bills to sustain CHIP (H.R. 919 and S. 522). Both bills would:
- Extend CHIP funding through 2019
- Maintain the 23-percentage increase in federal matching rates established by the ACA
- Continue initiatives to measure and improve pediatric quality of care
On February 24, Republican leadership – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hatch (R-UT), Senate Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Upton (R-MI), and House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) – released a discussion draft for a third, alternative CHIP bill.
It’s a welcome sign that both sides of the aisle appear to be committed to extending CHIP. However, the Republican proposal has several downsides. Health advocates say that that Hatch-Upton-Pitts bill, if enacted, would result in reduced funds for states, potentially longer waiting periods for children, and the elimination of vital protections that could allow states to roll back coverage. (For more info, read this and this.) For example, the bill would eliminate federal match funding for families earning over 300% of FPL – a big hit to New York’s program, which provides subsidized coverage to families up to 400% FPL. The chairmen are currently inviting comments on their proposal.
Clashing visions of CHIP in Congress means we can expect further delays before a final decision is made on CHIP funding. Meanwhile, time is running out for millions of families in New York State and across the country.
Join or follow the conversation online by exploring the hashtag #ExtendCHIP on Twitter