Funding for Iowa children's health insurance program at risk

Posted October 04, 2017

Montana will lose almost $100 million a year in federal funding that covers health-care costs for 30,000 kids in low- and middle-income families, if Congress doesn't reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program, state officials said this week.

By now, congressional Republicans' willingness to gut health care funding for vulnerable kids is no secret.

In the 20 years since the program was implemented, the percentage of uninsured children in the United States has dropped from 14 percent to just under five percent.

"We now expect funding to last at least through January, and we are hopeful that Congress will pass the Hatch-Wyden bill making its way through the Senate that would extend CHIP funding", Niki Forbing-Orr, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokeswoman, told the Idaho Statesman. All of this goes a long way in giving kids a quality of life they simply would not have if they could not go to the doctor regularly simply due to their families' income - that, of course, helps to control health care costs long-term, as well. It also offers prenatal care to about 36,000 pregnant women in Texas. "Medicaid is not the driver of health-care costs", she says.

The federal government has funded most of the program, with states contributing a marginal amount. It was last reauthorized in 2015 and was due to be renewed by September 30, 2017. "This is why for two decadesI have championed this important program and support ongoing efforts to reauthorize it". The program's champions include some local elected leaders.

The media is paying attention, even if the Congress is not. With few lawmakers eager to be portrayed as denying health coverage to poor children, the main question has been the length and funding for extending the program, not whether it would happen.

Children's advocates and state officials have been pressing Congress to quickly renew funding for the children's health program. Maryland, which has about 140,000 CHIP enrollees, has enough money to last through March, state officials estimate.

However, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Kait Gillis said in an email that CHIP will be able to continue without disruption in Pennsylvania until February 2018. However, some states are in better shape than others with those funds.

"West Virginia children are enrolled in CHIP and to let this funding expire is nothing short of negligent", Manchin said in a statement. "This one has has bipartisan support for a long time." said Carlson.

Congress is working to propose new legislation to renew the program.

Now, thanks to Congress's inaction, those gains hang in the balance, including in North Carolina. Hatch and Wyden's compromise is still alive in the Senate, and Axios reported the Senate Finance Committee will mark the bill up on Wednesday.

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. The number of patients seeking care at the health centers, which have a sliding scale for people without insurance, has more than doubled since 2006. One of them is U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans of Philadelphia. When that date passed without action from either the Senate or the House, the funding expired.

Wilborn said he expects lawmakers to act to extend their funding, because three-fifths of senators and two-thirds of representatives recently signed letters urging their colleagues to pass an extension quickly.