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article imageNo action on CHIP leaves millions of children without health care

By Karen Graham     Nov 24, 2017 in Health
Almost 9 million children across the U.S. are at risk of losing health care under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. Lawmakers failed to renew funding for CHIP by Sept. 30, and states are at risk of running out of money.
CHIP was created by the late Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah in 1997. The program covers children whose families make too much to be covered by Medicaid, but do not have employer-sponsored plans.
Many low- and middle-income families found that even with coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that came into existence in 2010, it was still difficult to fit health care for their children into a family budget.
So for the past 20 years, CHIP has provided much-needed health care for a segment of society that didn't fit into Medicaid criteria, yet didn't make quite enough to afford to buy insurance. It isn't perfect, costing about $14 billion a year, yet it does supply a need.
U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) explains the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Ca...
U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) explains the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act during his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol March 9, 2017 in Washington, DC
Deadline to reauthorize CHIP comes and goes
September 30 passed by without the Congress doing anything about reauthorizing CHIP, and it took until November 3 when a House Bill passed 242-174, with 227 Republicans and 15 Democrats voting yes, and 171 Democrats and 3 Republicans voting no to reauthorize CHIP.
This does not mean appropriations for CHIP are available, and it is almost certain the bill will not pass. Congress may wait until the end of the year, and according to the Huffington Post, Democrats say passing the bill would allow Republicans to take money from a preventive care fund.
The GOP bill would also allow new Medicare means-testing to partially pay for CHIP. As Republicans repeatedly pointed out on the House floor on November 3, Democrats were voting to protect seniors making $40,000 a month from paying about $135 more.
US protesters demonstrate against the Republicans' healthcare bill as they stage a rally outsid...
US protesters demonstrate against the Republicans' healthcare bill as they stage a rally outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC
Saul Loeb, AFP/File
The bottom line, and it is fairly obvious to most folks, is that with a Republican-led Congress, the Democrats are blaming them for failure to pass the CHIP bill because they have spent the last nine months trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Now House Republicans are using the reauthorization of CHIP and community health centers as a way to once again sabotage the ACA,” the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone of New Jersey said.
And, Democrats want no part of repealing the ACA, also known as Obamacare. But not only were Democrats and Republicans unable to agree on the offsets for the bill, Republicans also very nearly couldn’t agree among themselves. There was a lot of bickering among GOP members on where to take money from to pay for the offsets, and it finally ended up devoid of the wanted changes.
The thing here is that the bill has to go to the Senate for approval and the Senate has no desire to even look at the bill. As the Huffington Post writes: "Republicans will probably use the bill to ding Democrats for voting against a popular children’s health insurance program and Democrats will criticize Republicans for playing politics." No one will win this vote.
A baby learning from his mother
A baby learning from his mother
Stacy Spensley
States already sending out letters
The Daily Beast is reporting Arizona, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, and North Carolina are expected to run out of CHIP funding next month according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC). Another 27 states are anticipated to have their funds exhausted by March 2018.
Colorado's funds will be depleted by January 31, and this has prompted the state’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to prepare an early warning letter to the state's 90,000 CHIP recipients. The letter states: “Ask your doctor’s or dentist’s office for the names of the private insurance plans they accept. Write this information down in case you need to shop for a private insurance plan.”
And in Texas, the state's nearly 400,000 CHIP recipients could be getting a letter right around Christmas about the CHIP program ending because of the shortage of funding caused by recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. “They’re kicking the can down the road but this is one thing they really can’t kick down the road,” Michael Adame of Conroe, Texas said. Adame’s 12-year-old stepson, Abraham, has Down Syndrome and is covered under the CHIP program in Texas.
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