Congress Must Extend CHIP Funding

By Jessica Gehr and Suzanne Wikle

Now that the last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and gut Medicaid has failed, it is time to focus on bipartisan solutions to health care, including reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Funding for CHIP, which covers over 8 million children, expires on September 30, 2017. The program provides critical health coverage for low-income children in working families with income too high to qualify for Medicaid. CHIP has always received strong bipartisan support, and it’s time to act to ensure the continuation of this vital program.

If Congress does not move quickly to extend CHIP, millions of children could face disruptions in coverage. States will be forced to make tough decisions about administering CHIP and will soon begin informing families that their children’s insurance may end. The timeline for this varies by state, but the only way to avoid confusing messages to families is for Congress to cleanly extend CHIP for five years.

Together with Medicaid, CHIP has helped bring children’s coverage rates to a historic high of over 95 percent as of 2016, an increase from 92.9 percent in 2013—the year before the ACA was fully implemented. Maintaining these gains depends on consistency in the programs.

Our national focus should now be on finding common ground in health care, and CHIP is the perfect opportunity to start working together. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) have released a draft of bipartisan legislative language to extend CHIP for five years.

September 30 marks the end of the federal fiscal year and marks the date CHIP and another critical child health program, MIECHV, which supports home visiting programs, are set to expire. Congress should act now on the bipartisan CHIP agreement to preserve health insurance for more than 8 million children, and also ensure that MIECHV continues without interruption. Both programs need quick, clean extensions to provide stability to American families and state budgets.