States Gird for Worst as Congress Wrestles with Children's Insurance Program

The House Commerce and Energy Committee is scheduled to take up bills Wednesday that would extend funding for federally qualified health centers and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Monday, on the nation's 88th Child Health Day, Congress is reflecting on its failure to renew the Children's Health Insurance Program, which technically expired Friday amid House attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That number is now about 5% because of CHIP, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion.

If the federal CHIP dollars are not reinstated, Capriotti said AHCCCS is looking at potential program changes that could end, freeze or reorganize it. State officials have begun sending out notifications letting CHIP enrollees know that their coverage has lapsed. And community health care funding. She noted that from 2015 to 2016, the rate of uninsured children in Arizona dropped by 11 percent - the fourth largest drop in the nation. A bipartisan group of senator agreed on a reauthorization bill in September that would have extended CHIP for another five years. Ron Wyden of OR, announced an agreement in mid-September to renew CHIP funding.

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Auditor General Eugene DePasquale urged prompt funding of the Children's Helath Insurance Program on Tuesday. But that trend is likely to reverse quickly unless Congress reauthorizes funding.

So why would Congress let a program like CHIP, which has proven its ability to make such a difference in so many lives, expire? Others have said they will soon run out of money for it. "I will continue to work with Ranking Member Wyden and my colleagues to further advance this bill in a fiscally responsible manner to provide certainty for this critical, bipartisan program". It covers children from low-income families that don't qualify for Medicaid and would not have insurance coverage otherwise. "Good stewardship has created a reserve in funding, so health care coverage for 160,000 children and youth in Alabama, who benefit from CHIP, will continue at least through February", Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar said.

About $165 million in CHIP funding was spent on Medicaid recipients past year; $198 million was spent on children in All Kids, according to the Medicaid office. West Virginia is projected to be able to fund CHIP on its own until April 2018, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission.

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"It puts a gap in the state's budget", Piper said.

The Senate and House bills would each provide a total of $118.5 billion over five years, but under arcane budget rules, Congress needs to offset less than 10 percent of that cost. This is going to add even additional pressure, and that's a big concern if Congress doesn't act.

Garcia said coverage remains available so long as people keep up with their renewals and funding for the program gets found. Renewal dates for families in counties affected by Hurricane Harvey have been pushed back by 6 months, she said. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) asked why there needed to pay fors at all, especially at the risk of possible derailing the CHIP program. "A huge majority of Americans-75 percent-polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation said that they thought it was "extremely" or "very" important to reauthorize CHIP before its funding ran out".

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