Calling All States – Take Action and #ExtendCHIP
How much more information – or urgency – do we need regarding CHIP and its critical importance to 9 million low-income children across our country? Many states are sounding the alarm.
We’re now going on two months since federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) lapsed. States are running out of money or are about to do so. Warnings and notifications are piling up as state officials must alert parents and families, taking action in the face of this unexpected and inexplicable delay. While promises of federal funding have been extended for months, nothing has happened. Funding is uncertain at best. State Medicaid and CHIP Directors don’t have the luxury of “hoping” that federal matching funds for CHIP will materialize in time to avoid a complete disruption in their ability to pay for health care services. They need backup plans. They are notifying parents. Damage has already occurred and is happening now.
Worst-case scenarios of dropping vulnerable children and pregnant women from critical and, in some cases, life-saving, health care in a matter of weeks, with no viable or affordable alternatives, are becoming more likely.
Take California for example. As noted in a recent editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle, CA has 2 million children depending on CHIP, and its funding will run out at the end of the year. This leaves a “worst-case scenario” of “a state legislature scrambling for the $2.7 billion it needs to backfill the federal support.”
Minnesota has run out of federal funding for its CHIP program this month—and it’s the first state to do so. It’s looking for ways to divert state resources from other needs to make up for the lack of federal funding, as is Oregon. Whether or not they will be able to do so and meet the current need is unknown. The same uncertainty remains regarding the questions of what other needed care will suffer if states must make up for lost federal CHIP funding.
Pennsylvania, long known as the state that set a national model for CHIP, signed the program into law in 1992 under Governor Robert P. Casey. The state will run out of funding in February without federal renewal, leaving 176,000 children without health coverage.
Not all states can legally divert state funds to cover a shortfall in CHIP federal funds. Some are required to close their CHIP programs without their portion of federal funding. Colorado has notified its CHIP families that they may need to look into private options if federal funding doesn’t come through; the state is scheduled to run out on January 31, 2018. The deputy director of Virginia’s state Medicaid agency says their state will also shut down as of January 31 without federal funding. She calls the situation “mass confusion…People will lose their managed-care plans. They’ll lose their provider. It’s going to cause chaos.”
Children need consistent and high-quality health care and have better lives when they get it. A bipartisan and highly successful program has made that an increasingly widespread reality for 20 years. Why is it not a no-brainer to renew the CHIP program on time?
CHIP is a bipartisan, remarkably successful, federal-state partnership that has been responsible for improved health care and outcomes for vulnerable children and pregnant women for two decades. As my colleague Carrie Fitzgerald noted last month, after Congress allowed the September 30 deadline to lapse without extension, “[O]ver the last twenty years, along with Medicaid, CHIP coverage has brought the children’s uninsured rate to a record low of 5%.” Uninsured and low-income children, over the past two decades, have increasingly had access to and received better, more regular health care, resulting in a record low rate of uninsured children.
That is what we call a rare success story. That means catching developmental delays in time to help or even avoid a lifetime of difficulties (and public assistance), preventing serious illness, functioning better in school and in all settings. That means families can afford a child’s doctor’s visit and paying the rent, without having to choose between the two. That means improved life outcomes for all beneficiaries.
Children need consistent and high-quality health care and they have better lives when they get it. A bipartisan and highly successful program has made that an increasingly widespread reality for 20 years. Why is it not a no-brainer to renew the CHIP program on time?
Last night the National Governor’s Association, those on the front lines of ensuring coverage for CHIP kids in their states, sent a letter to Congress saying, essentially, “pass CHIP already”.
But the GOP-controlled Congress continues to allow an incomprehensible lapse in funding – and judgment—to occur, forcing states to expend resources on “what ifs” and “plan Bs”. And worst-case scenarios of dropping vulnerable children and pregnant women from critical and, in some cases, life-saving, health care in a matter of weeks, with no viable or affordable alternatives, are becoming more likely. This inaction, one of the worst examples of partisan paralysis, is causing panic-stricken parents across the country to wonder how they are going to pay for the care that their children need.
Calling all states: Please weigh in with your families – but please also alert your members of Congress about what is at stake, and how very dire the consequences will be if CHIP is not extended now.
For more information, including a CHIP toolkit for immediate action steps, please contact Carrie Fitzgerald, Vice President of Children’s Health Programs, firstname.lastname@example.org.