Rockefeller CHIP Bill Would Extend Critical Programs for Children’s Health

Jun 20, 2014

By Helly Lee

Update: On July 31, 2014, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ) and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) introduced the Children’s Health Insurance Program Extension and Improvement Act of 2014. Like the Rockefeller bill, this bill also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for four years beyond the 2015 expiration date and includes provisions that ensures former foster youth can retain Medicaid until age 26, even if they move to a state different than the one in which they aged out of foster care. The Pallone/Waxman bill also extends important funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program and makes permanent Express Lane Eligibility and includes a state option to extend it to adults.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides comprehensive health coverage to children in families whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but who don’t make enough to afford comparable private health coverage. The program currently covers nearly 8 million children through federal matching funds to states.  Without CHIP, the coverage these kids receive would be less comprehensive —or they wouldn’t have any coverage due to the so-called “family glitch.”

With CHIP funding set to expire on September 30, 2015, it’s critical that Congress take action.  Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) recently introduced the CHIP Extension Act of 2014, which would extend CHIP funding  through September 30, 2019.

The CHIP Extension Act of 2014 also includes other provisions important to low-income communities. In particular, the bill includes a provision to ensure former foster children can access Medicaid between ages 18 and 26—even if they change their state of residence after they age out of foster care. Foster youth are disproportionately affected by medical, mental health, and substance abuse challenges , making access to health services critical. This provision would allow foster youth who have aged out of the system the same opportunity as young people who are permitted to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26 under the ACA. Ages 18 through 26 are critical transition years for former foster youth, especially those who choose to pursue educational or employment opportunities outside the state they lived in when they aged out of foster care.  It’s vital that they have access to uninterrupted health care if they are to prosper.

The bill also includes a provision to extend the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, a federal and state partnership that supports evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs in every state. Home visiting has a strong evidence base, backed by rigorous research that supports the models’ effectiveness at promoting children’s health and development and strong parenting skills while leading to fewer children in the social welfare, mental health, and juvenile corrections systems; it’s proven to create considerable cost savings for states. The CHIP Extension Act of 2014 proposes a 5-year extension of MIECHV, providing $400 million per year for fiscal years 2015 through 2019.

The CHIP Extension Act of 2014 would also make permanent Express Lane Eligibility (ELE), a state option that streamlines enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP.  ELE enables state Medicaid and CHIP agencies to identify, enroll, and recertify children by relying on eligibility findings from other programs serving low-income families, such as Head Start or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), rather than having to re-analyze information under their individual rules. ELE simplifies the enrollment process for families and improves efficiency of administering these programs that serve low-income families.

CLASP applauds Senator Rockefeller’s leadership in advocating for children’s health.  Congress should take prompt action to extend CHIP and these important programs that serve low-income children, youth, and families. 

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