Bipartisan CHIP Agreement Needed to Keep Kids Covered

By Jessica Gehr

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired over one month ago. CHIP provides critical health coverage for low-income children in working families who earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid. Without urgent action, Congress is endangering the health and wellbeing of nearly 9 million children.

If Congress doesn’t act quickly, at least eight states will run out of federal funds in the next three months, forcing them to increase state funding or terminate kids’ health coverage. Even before the money runs out, states will stop enrolling new children and send letters informing families that their children’s health insurance is ending. Instead of focusing on ways to improve CHIP and get more kids covered, state agency staff are spending their time making contingency plans to deal with federal funding uncertainty. Waiting until December to reauthorize CHIP as part of a year-end fiscal package will cause additional states to take drastic measures, confusing families and risking kids’ health care.

Interrupting coverage, even if only briefly, and freezing enrollment undermine children’s health and place financial stress on families. This also weakens our health care system. Families who can’t afford other insurance turn to emergency rooms. ERs are required to provide treatment, but families get a bill that’s even less affordable. Alternatively, families may choose to forego care, risking long-term consequences for children’s health and wellbeing.

On November 3, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure to reauthorize CHIP. However, the bill includes provisions that could take away insurance from hundreds of thousands others.

CHIP has always received strong bipartisan support. It’s time for Congress to secure CHIP’s future without harming non-recipients. We urge the Senate to reject this bill. Instead, Republicans and Democrats should work together to pass the bipartisan plan to which they’ve already agreed. That’s the right path forward for low-income kids.