Millions of American children may have to part with their health care by the end of the year.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program provides health coverage to over 8.9 million low-income children annually, allowing for access to early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services, according to a 2016 Medicaid report. Under CHIP, kids have broader, affordable access to medically necessary treatment such as mental health and dental services.
Authorization for what many believed to be a bipartisan initiative expired on September 30, which has left many states scrambling for the funds to keep their citizens insured.
Health experts told Independent Journal Review that the impact on millions of children would be severe.
“It would be devastating to lose [...] access to immunizations, access to timely coverage, and then, heaven forbid, any sort of chronic disease management like children with diabetes,” Michael Munger, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said.
Munger stressed that the key to good health in children is access to continuing care, and once funds for the plan dry up, so does availability of routine medical treatment.
This is something that Andy Slavitt, former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator under the Obama administration, labels as a “national nightmare”:
In a series of tweets from earlier this week, Slavitt shared Kaiser Family Foundation graphics that indicate that several states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Indiana, and Utah will run out of federal CHIP funds by the end of this year.
Slavitt also took a jab at Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch (R-Utah), who co-authored the original CHIP legislation back in 1997, for his supposed inaction on re-upping funds necessary for children in his own state to get life-saving medical treatment:
A spokesperson for the Senate Finance Committee told IJR that despite Kaiser's claims, reauthorizing CHIP funding “continues to be a top priority for Chairman Hatch.”
“The chairman is continuing to make progress in his discussions on how best to address this issue on the Senate floor and remains confident this will be resolved before the year’s end,” Katie Niederee, press secretary for the Senate Finance Committee, said.
Federal officials explain that states are not completely out of options just yet.
One official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told IJR on condition of anonymity that there is limited federal funding from previous fiscal years available to fund a portion of state CHIP expenditures for the current fiscal year.
States will have two major sources of emergency funding:
- Unused, state-specific fiscal year 2017 CHIP allotments carried over into fiscal year 2018.
- A national redistribution fund comprised of unused CHIP allotments from certain fiscal years prior to fiscal year 2017.
“As states exhaust any funding ... CMS has been working with states to issue monthly interim redistribution payments ... on an as-needed basis,” the official explained.
The official stressed that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been “committed to ensuring states are prepared to address operating their Children’s Health Insurance Programs in a Title XXI/CHIP federal funding shortfall.”
A number of states continue to be affected by immobility from Congress as the countdown toward a December government shutdown grows shorter by the day.
Governing.com reported Monday that Minnesota was the first state to run out of CHIP funds entirely. Officials from Minnesota's Department of Human Services tell IJR that safeguards are in place, because of its unique Medicaid expansion CHIP program, to ensure that coverage “will continue without any lapse.”
The publication noted that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced this week that the state will reach deep into its own pocket — $35 million deep — to keep its own CHIP program viable for at least a few more weeks.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health Services tells IJR that funding for the program will continue until the first quarter of 2018. After that, 178,707 enrolled children will lose CHIP-sponsored health insurance.
Colorado formally warned its residents earlier this month that its funding, too, will soon run dry, according to Governing.com.
Health officials in Minnesota have no plans to notify CHIP-affected families of the nationwide budget pinch, the state's Department of Human Services explained to IJR.
The majority of states are “projected to exhaust funding by March 2018,” it announced in a letter earlier this month.
Studies from Georgetown University say that if CHIP funding is not renewed, an estimated 1.2 million children would likely become uninsured, spiking the childhood uninsured rate by 37 percent.
A bill reauthorizing funds would need to hit the White House's doorstep by late December to prevent further damage, though experts remain skeptical if lawmakers, amid major tax reform talks, can push CHIP through.