Congress Lets CHIP Expire, and States Scramble

Congress missed the Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), sending states that rely on that money scrambling to figure out how to pay for it.

U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden introduced a bipartisan bill last month that would have extended funding for five years, but it never even got a vote. Health policy experts, however, are cautiously optimistic that Congress will pass the bill in the next few weeks, after the initial deadline has passed.

In the meantime, some states are already preparing to freeze enrollment or cut off insurance coverage as they face the possibility of running out of CHIP funding in the near future.

The federal Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) estimates that three states — Arizona, Minnesota, North Carolina plus the District of Columbia — will run out of CHIP funding by the end of the year. But the Kaiser Family Foundation found that number to be conservative, releasing a report last month stating that 10 states would actually run out of money by the end of the year. Earlier this month, Minnesota’s human services commissioner told Congress the state would exhaust its funding by the end of September.

CHIP provides health insurance to 9 million low-income children and pregnant mothers who don’t qualify for Medicaid. It’s jointly funded by the federal government and states, but the feds foot almost 80 percent of the bill.

(Excerpted from Governing 9/30/17)