As CHIP Funding Expiration Looms, Dems Take Action

As the expiration of the funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) approaches, many have put pressure on Congress to take action to extend the program. As such, proposed legislation has been introduced that will extend CHIP funding through 2019 and would help save health insurance coverage for over 10 million children and pregnant woman. Besides the five Democratic Senators who joined together to propose the bill, 37 other Democrats and two Independents from the Senate joined it as co-sponsors. Other supporters of the continuation of this funding noted the effect that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) has had on the importance of CHIP coverage to certain parts of the population.

CHIP History

CHIP, which is supported by federal funding that is set to expire in September of 2015, distributes money to states, which have flexibility to create their own programs to provide health insurance coverage to children and pregnant women in need. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, described CHIP as providing “a crucial lifeline to more than 10 million children, ensuring they have access to comprehensive, affordable health care.”

Legislation

In order to keep the expiration of these funds from threatening that “crucial lifeline,” Senator Wyden, along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Bob Casey (D-Pa), and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), introduced the Protecting & Retaining Our Children’s Health Insurance Program Act of 2015 (PRO-CHIP). PRO-CHIP would extend funding for CHIP through 2019. In Senator Wyden’s state of Ohio alone, this would ensure coverage for 130,000 Ohioans, who would otherwise lose their coverage. It would also result in the continuation of an estimated $146 million in federal funding to be dispersed to his state under CHIP in 2016.

Other Pressure

According to an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times written by Hilary Clinton, former Secretary of State and Democratic New York Senator, and Bill Frist, former Republican Senator out of Tennessee, “state governments continue to rely on [CHIP] to meet crucial health and budget priorities.” While emphasizing the importance of the continuation of the CHIP program, these bipartisan authors also noted that in 2014, all 39 state governors who responded to a poll about the continuation of CHIP supported saving the program.

‘Family Glitch’

Clinton and Frist also described how “the American health care landscape has changed significantly since CHIP started,” and noted what they termed the “family glitch,” or the provision of the ACA that states that families cannot receive subsidized coverage through the Health Insurance Exchanges if one parent in the family received “affordable coverage” through his or her employer. While “affordable” is defined as less than approximately 9.5 percent of the entire household’s income for that individual to sign up by him or herself, the piece stresses that typically the actual cost of the “affordable” coverage ends up being far greater and that, in turn, “for families affected by this glitch, CHIP may be the only affordable option for making sure their children are covered.”