Congress Must Fund CHIP Program

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Some 1.9 million children are at risk of losing coverage in January, according to a recent report by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

Mallory McManus, a spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, said the state was "closely monitoring" to see if Congress will restore the money. CMS officials did not respond to requests made 18 December about when those dollars would run out.

CHIP also provides health insurance for an expanded pool of people younger than 21 who drank lead-contaminated water from Flint since April 2014, as well as any pregnant women who were served the water, and the children born to them.

"If you issue the notice and say "your child's coverage may end on this date". According to the nonprofit health research organization the Kaiser Family Foundation, CHIP has helped cut the share of uninsured US children from 14 percent to five percent over two decades.

Caldwell says Alabama estimates it will have enough money to cover claims made only through February. It's unacceptable for Republicans to be making any demands about identifying sources for the roughly $14 billion a year spent on CHIP. Less than 10 percent would qualify for Medicaid, she says, and many families would find subsidized coverage for children in the Affordable Care Act's online marketplaces too costly because it often comes with higher premiums, copayments and deductibles.

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Democrats had been hammering Republicans for passing their sweeping tax-cut legislation while CHIP remained in limbo, arguing it would leave millions of families who depend upon the program uncertain over their future at the holidays. Enrolled families pay an average premium of about $127 a year.

"Our phones are ringing off the wall", Caldwell said. The 20-year-old program cost about $15.6 billion in fiscal 2016, funded nearly entirely by the federal government. It's problematic, says center director Joan Alker and there are few alternatives. "We're not real far along on those because we have several months, but it'll be a challenge". "This will really be a huge blow".

Congress hasn't acted to renew the program that expired September 30.

As a Friday government shutdown deadline loomed, Congress was looking at ways to pass a stopgap measure and boot unfinished items like CHIP, an $81 billion disaster aid package and protections for young immigrants brought to the US illegally as children into next year.

This story originally appeared on Kaiser Health News.