The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides coverage to 9 million children, expired this weekend after Congress failed to reauthorize the program before the Sept. 30 deadline.
There is still hope that Congress will approve a reauthorization quickly, but state leaders are concerned if Congress doesn't act soon they will run out of money for the program, which is mostly paid for with federal funds. House and Senate lawmakers have said they will pursue CHIP legislation this week.
The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) estimated that if CHIP isn't reauthorized three states and the District of Columbia will run out of program funding by the end of the year and another 27 states will run dry in the first quarter of 2018.
MACPAC warned that stopping CHIP funding will impact state budgets and force states to decide whether to continue coverage on their own dime. If states limit or stop CHIP coverage, hospitals and providers could feel the brunt of fewer insured children and more bad debt. This is especially true for children’s hospitals.
Jim Kaufman, vice president of public policy at Children's Hospital Association (CHA), recently told Healthcare Dive that CHIP is important for children’s hospitals. “CHIP is good for kids, and that makes it good for children’s hospitals and children’s providers,” Kaufman said.
Not reauthorizing CHIP quickly could especially be an issue for the three states (Arizona, Minnesota and North Carolina) and the District of Columbia, which are expected to run out of CHIP money by the end of the year.
There was hope last month that Congress might be able to reauthorize the program in time. A bipartisan group of senator agreed on a reauthorization bill in September that would have extended CHIP for another five years. However, momentum for that bill stalled when Capitol Hill turned its attention to the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal legislation. Graham-Cassidy died without a floor vote, and Congress didn't take up CHIP reauthorization before the deadline.
CHIP, which costs about $14 billion annually, was created in 1997 as a way to provide more health insurance coverage to children of families with low and moderate incomes. The federal government sends CHIP money to states annually, based on previous spending of the funds and populations factors. The states must spend the federal money within two years. Money that isn’t used goes back to the federal government to reallocate to states with CHIP funding shortfalls.
Congress has reauthorized the program periodically since its creation. CHIP has wide support and studies have shown the program helps reduce hospitalizations and child mortality and increase quality of care. When the program was created, 15% of children were uninsured. That number is now about 5% because of CHIP, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion.