House offers short-term funding for children's health insurance

The House wants to inject nearly $3 billion into the Children's Health Insurance Program to keep it funded through Ma...

Posted: Dec 21, 2017 2:57 PM
Updated: Dec 21, 2017 2:57 PM

The House wants to inject nearly $3 billion into the Children's Health Insurance Program to keep it funded through March. The money would be included in a short-term spending bill to keep the federal government open.

Though CHIP is popular on both sides of the political aisle, its funding ended on Sept. 30, and Congress has failed to reauthorize it. States have started warning that children will lose their coverage if lawmakers don't act fast.

Parents have been pleading with Congress to keep their children insured. Even Jimmy Kimmel urged Americans to tell their representatives to fund the program.

The federal government is set to shut down Friday as Republicans grapple with how to fund it before the end of the year. The GOP is eyeing another short-term solution that would only get them through the middle of January, but even that has been politically precarious.

Related: Parents to Congress: My child depends on CHIP for health insurance

CHIP covers about 9 million children whose parents usually earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private health coverage -- typically no more than $62,000 for a family of four. The 20-year-old program cost about $15.6 billion in fiscal 2016, funded almost entirely by the federal government.

States have been able to keep their CHIP programs going since the federal funding expired by using their unspent allotments and with grants from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

But the money is running out. Some 1.9 million children are at risk of losing coverage in January, according to a recent report by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. The number grows by another million children by the end of February.

Related: More than a million children could lose their health insurance next year

Alabama announced this week that it will stop enrolling children in its CHIP program, titled ALL Kids, on Jan. 1, and will terminate coverage for all children at the end of January if federal funding isn't renewed. Connecticut, meanwhile, said it will discontinue its HUSKY B program on Jan. 31.

Those states join Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma, which have already warned that coverage may end or be reduced in coming months.

Not every state can simply end coverage for children. It depends on how they set up their programs. Some 5.2 million kids live in states that have to continue the coverage, but have to foot more of the cost themselves.

Related: Jimmy Kimmel brings out his son to talk about health care

But another 3.7 million kids live in states that can simply terminate the policies, and 1.2 million of them could become uninsured if they can't afford alternate coverage, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission.

While both Republicans and Democrats say they support fully funding CHIP, they differ in how to pay for it.

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

Related: After Kimmel, here's where the CHIP program stands

Republicans are likely to have to rely on just their own members. Democratic leaders have encouraged their members to vote against any short-term measure that doesn't include a fix for DACA recipients, individuals who came to the country illegally as children, but have been able to live, study and work in the U.S. under a protected status. President Donald Trump made the decision months ago that in March, the program will end.

CNN's Lauren Fox contributed to this report.

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