Congress' CHIP patch accelerates rate states will run out of money
Half of all states will run out of their Children's Health Insurance Program funding in January, up from an original projection of 16.
All told, 31 states are in jeopardy of seeing the funding vanish sooner than expected, according to a new analysis from Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families.
The short-term budget fix passed by Congress on Dec. 8 reallocated $2.9 billion in federal CHIP funds to 20 states that were to run out of money before the end of the year.
CHIP funding expired Sept. 30. The stopgap measure was advanced by Republican Reps. Tom Emmer (Minn.) and Ryan Costello (Pa.), whose states were among those with shortfalls. Congress faces a Dec. 22 deadline to approve another government spending bill, or risk a government shutdown. Debate over how to handle CHIP funding continues to get bogged down in political jockeying and arguments over how to pay for it.
"If Congress fails to approve long-term funding for CHIP, an estimated 1.9 million children in separate CHIP programs could lose coverage in January," Georgetown analysts wrote in the report released Wednesday. "An additional 1 million children would also be at risk of losing coverage by the end of February."
The analysis shows how crucial it is for Congress to pass the full five-year funding extension instead of punting with another short-term patch, said Georgetown's Joan Alker.
"Another short-term patch would leave states in the dark as to how much funding they actually have," she added.
Already Alabama has frozen enrollment as starting Jan. 1. Officials in other states like Colorado are officially warning families of CHIP-enrolled kids that they may have to find a new coverage plan.
Hospitals have grown increasingly frustrated. On Wednesday, the Children's Hospital of Alabama said in a statement that coverage for children would have to end Feb. 1 if lawmakers don't act before the end of the year.
"Funding the program resides with the Congress and they have failed to be proactive so that state CHIP programs and state Legislatures can operate in the current 2018 fiscal year or beyond," the officials said. "Should Congress fail to pass a continuing resolution or separate legislation funding CHIP for five years by Christmas Day, the state is then obligated to notify the parents of the covered children that their coverage will be terminated as of Feb. 1, 2018."
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