Health Care

Bipartisan group of governors calls for swift CHIP reauthorization

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A bipartisan group of governors is urging Congress to act quickly to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

In a letter led by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), the governors said their states are running out of money, and urged lawmakers to find a bipartisan solution.

“Since its creation, CHIP has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. We encourage you to work across the aisle to find common ground that will allow this important program to continue and give the families who rely on CHIP the peace of mind of knowing that their children will be able to get the health care they need in the new year,” the letter reads.{mosads}

Federal funding for CHIP expired on Sept. 30 and while states have been able to use leftover funds in the interim, some will run out of money by the end of the year.

The recently-passed continuing resolution lifted restrictions to give the most-at-risk states access to a pool of unspent government funds, but that pool is rapidly being depleted.

“In the absence of Congressional action, we have worked to protect coverage for children and pregnant women in each of our states, but we will need federal support to continue the program,” the governors wrote. “Resources are nearly exhausted and some states already have begun to inform families that their children’s coverage may end on January 31.”

Virginia officials on Tuesday said they are planning to send a letter to enrollees in the program informing them they could lose their coverage on Jan. 31 if Congress does not renew the funding.

The House passed a five-year CHIP extension in early November, but it was mostly on a party-line vote as Democrats objected to the bill’s offsets.

The Senate Finance Committee cleared a CHIP extension but did not discuss offsets and the bill has yet to come to the floor for a vote.

There’s hope among lawmakers that an agreement could be reached to include a CHIP renewal in the next government spending bill, but without an agreement on offsets, there’s a risk the renewal could slip to January.

“So far we can’t get any agreement on pay-fors. A lot of the pay-fors that are out there are being recommended for use in different places and we haven’t settled on it yet,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told The Hill.

The current spending bill expires Dec. 22. If Congress can’t act by then, it’s likely they will continue passing temporary patches allowing states to continue to draw down the existing federal money.

Walden says the emergency measures aren’t sustainable.

“You’re using funds that other states will need later in the spring, so all that does is move the problem more rapidly forward,” Walden said. “You can’t keep doing these short gap emergency access to funds for states because you’re draining the money that’s there.” 

Tags CHIP governors Greg Walden Health care Insurance

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