Key lawmaker seeks flexibility for states on CHIP

Key lawmaker seeks flexibility for states on CHIP
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is working to lift a restriction on how much money states can get to keep their Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) running, as Congress works to reauthorize the program that lapsed Sept. 30.

Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenRepublicans are working to close the digital divide Fauci gives Congress COVID-19 warning Fauci: We need more testing, not less MORE (R-Ore.) has been working with leadership on granting states more flexibility to keep their programs going, according to a GOP committee spokesperson.

A measure could be included in the short-term government-spending bill that Congress must pass to prevent a shutdown by Dec. 8, Walden said.

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“This is a short-term, fill-the-gap for states — a little rescue, lifeline for them right now,” Walden said Friday.  

One idea Walden mentioned would be to let states receive more money for CHIP from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This wouldn’t be new money, but would come from the agency’s unused funds.

Because of Congress’s failure to reauthorize the program, a number of states are running low on money and have asked CMS for help. 

There are restrictions on how much unused funds a state can get, but Walden would lift those through Dec. 31. If a state has already gotten the full amount of redistributed money from CMS they were allowed to receive, they would be able to get more.

Congress let federal funding for CHIP expire Sept. 30, and CMS has been awarding millions in unused money to states in need for the past two months. CHIP is jointly funded by states and the federal government.

Last month, the House passed a bill on a party-line vote to reauthorize CHIP for five years, with Democrats criticizing how Republicans planned to pay for the bill. The Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan five-year extension, but hasn’t released how to pay for it.

Advocates are frustrated that Congress let CHIP expire and are worried the measure could dampen enrollment in the program, even if lawmakers reauthorize it by the end of the year.

CHIP is in part successful because states “put out the welcome mat” to help get kids enrolled, said Joan Alker, executive director for Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.