Lawmakers: Kids will lose coverage without CHIP funding

Members of the House appeared to agree Wednesday that Congress should continue to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) lest millions of kids lose coverage when the program's budget expires next year.

The consensus was apparent at a subcommittee hearing of the House Energy and Commerce panel, where Republicans and Democrats praised CHIP's benefits in equal measure.

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"I believe we need to extend funding for this program in some fashion," said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the Health subcommittee.

"If we don't, current enrollees will lose their CHIP coverage and many will end up in Medicaid and on the exchanges, programs which may offer poorer access to care or higher cost-sharing for lower income families. Some will lose access to insurance altogether."

CHIP was reauthorized until 2019 under the Affordable Care Act but its funding will expire on Sept. 30, 2015. Lawmakers are pressing for swift funding approval so governors can plan their budgets early next year.

The question now is whether lawmakers will approve CHIP funding at its current rate and whether policy changes will be part of the extension.

Some members of Congress and policy experts have also raised the possibility of folding CHIP into ObamaCare, which provides several new ways for low-income families to receive health coverage.

Anne Schwartz, executive director of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, noted her panel's recommendation that Congress extend CHIP funds for two "transitional" years.

"It was the commissions' intention … [for Congress] to use that two years to find a way to make sure there is integration of children into other forms of coverage, [and] to make sure that coverage works well for children," Schwartz told lawmakers.

"In the commission's view," she added in prepared remarks, "coverage under a separate CHIP authority should not be maintained indefinitely."