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Voices’ Blog

The Clock is Ticking: Congress must act quickly to extend CHIP funding

Posted:  -  By: Ashley Everette

Together, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as FAMIS in Virginia, provide critical health coverage to more than 720,000 children in Virginia. These programs work hand-in-hand and have helped the Commonwealth achieve an historic number of covered kids—95% as of 2015. Additionally, CHIP and Medicaid are a lifeline for families, providing free or low-cost coverage for kids whose parents aren’t offered or can’t afford health insurance on their own.

 

But now the future of CHIP –and health coverage for 123,256 children and 1,146 pregnant women in Virginia (as of September 2017 enrollment numbers)—is at risk. On September 30th—a little over two weeks from now—federal funding for the CHIP program is set to expire. If Congress does not act in time to extend federal funding for CHIP, kids will lose health coverage, families will be left in the lurch, and Virginia will face significant budget pressures.

 

If CHIP is not fully funded, Virginia lawmakers will need to appropriate $52.9 million in additional unanticipated funded for FY2018, a fiscal year that would already be in progress. Additionally, to continue providing coverage in FY 2019, Virginia lawmakers would need to appropriate an additional unanticipated $137.3 million. An unanticipated expense of such magnitude would force lawmakers to make difficult budget reduction decisions such as raising taxes, pulling back on other budget priorities like mental health or cutting kids off of coverage.

 

Virginia is projected to run out of remaining CHIP dollars early in 2018. If the program is not funded by Sept 30th, our state will need to decide well before the end of this year on how to keep CHIP afloat, which could mean capping or closing the program to kids who need coverage.

 

To ensure Virginia can successfully and responsibly run the program and kids can get the coverage they need, we need a clean, bipartisan, long-term extension of CHIP funding. We must protect CHIP and Medicaid to ensure no kids lose coverage and parents have the peace of mind knowing their families are protected.

 

The Good News: Progress in the Senate 

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on extending funding for CHIP. Linda Nablo, Chief Deputy Director from Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS), served as one of three witnesses at the hearing and did an amazing job explaining why extending federal CHIP funding is critical. If you didn’t get a chance to see the coverage live, check out the recording here.

As a result of this hearing, Republican Chair and Ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Senators Hatch and Wyden, announced a bipartisan agreement on Tuesday night to extend CHIP funding. While there is no legislative language yet (but hope there will be in the next few days), here is what we know so far about this bipartisan agreement:

  • CHIP funding would be extended for five years (till 2022).
  • CHIP’s enhanced matching rate, the 23-percentage point bump, would be fully funded through FY 2019, as authorized under current law. Then in FY 2020, the 23% enhancement would decrease to 11.5% (76.5% for VA) and eliminated completely by 2021 (65% for VA).

Our friends at Georgetown Center for Children and Families also note that CHIP’s Maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement, which ensures stability in children’s coverage, will be maintained until FY 2019 and then amended to allow state flexibility for states over 300% of the federal poverty line to restrict eligibility if they choose to do so.

While we are thrilled by this bipartisan agreement in the Senate, no specific proposal has moved forward on the House side yet.

Update 9/19/17: Read about the KIDS Act here 

Child advocates must focus on educating Congress about the importance of refunding CHIP before the program expires.  Call your Representative and Senators and urge them to take action before the Sept 30th deadline. Use our action alert below to find the phone numbers for your Representative and Senators, as well as some suggested talking points.

Please take action today!  Take Action  

If you have any questions about CHIP or want to share your story, contact Ashley Everette at ashley@vakids.org.

 

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