The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, was rocketed to the national stage last month when news stations picked up that nearly 20 states will run out of funding for the program in January of 2018. The funding issue continues as nearly every state will have depleted all CHIP funding by February 2018. Today, about 9 million children are enrolled in CHIP. This program made national headlines recently when late night host Jimmy Fallon brought his son on stage to talk about the benefits of CHIP, which you can see here. Let’s break down CHIP.
What is it?
According to healthcare.gov, “CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, CHIP covers pregnant women. Each state offers CHIP coverage, and works closely with its state Medicaid program.” This coverage includes costs for check-ups, immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, among other things. The cost of these services varies by state. Some routine examinations are free. Other services require a copay. The program also ensures that a family will not pay more than 5% of their yearly income on this care.
Why is everyone talking about it?
Since the program expired on September 30th of 2017, many are concerned about the future of this form of healthcare. Created in 1997 under President Clinton, this program originally had strong bipartisan support. Senators Orrin Hatch (R) and Edward Kennedy (D) were at the forefront of the creation of this program. However, it’s future is in question largely due to the estimated $14 million that will be required to continue. Both sides of the aisle generally agree that some level of funding for CHIP should be required. Both parties disagree over how to pay for it.
What happens next?
If funding for the program is not allocated before the program’s finances dry up, an estimated 2 million children will lose health insurance coverage, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. An emergency reallocation of funds was diverted to CHIP in December, which totaled roughly $1.24 billion. This funding was moved from other health-related programs to aid CHIP recipients. With a looming government shutdown slated for January 19th, many are hopeful that CHIP will receive its funding as part of that extended budget.
What else do I need to know?
Lately, there has been substantial confusion surrounding this program. Many are unsure of the specifics of its shutdown. The program is mostly funded through the federal government, hence the outcry over the lapse in funding stemming from the original September 30, 2017 deadline. However, the program is also covered, in part, by the individual states. Different percentages of the youth population enrolled per state, and the specific level of funding provided by that state, produced the staggered deadlines that are confusing to many. If one state provides its citizens with greater funding for CHIP, and there are fewer children enrolled statewide, then the program will continue in those states longer than in others. For example, Colorado and Louisiana have announced that it can provide funding through January 31st. Other states like Connecticut are only guaranteeing coverage until mid-January. Still other states like Tennessee, have built up reserves and can continue the program until May.
There is a divide in Washington over the future of CHIP. Many want funding to continue, but discrepancies exist over where exactly that money should come from. With Congress back at work for the new year, those that advocate for the program can only hope that funding will be allocated before the program runs dry.