Funding for a health insurance program for children has become front and center as lawmakers struggle to keep the government open.
The federal funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired at the end of September, and a permanent solution has not been passed.
As state funding for the program becomes increasingly closer to completely depleting, Congress has attached reauthorization to a temporary spending bill to avert a shutdown.
Here’s a look at the CHIP program and what it does.
What is it?
Created in 1997, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is low-cost insurance for families with incomes too high for Medicaid but potentially too low to afford private insurance plans.
CHIP covers routine check-ups, doctor visits, prescriptions, emergency services and hospital care, among other things, according to HealthCare.gov.
Every state has a CHIP program, but the rules and qualifications vary state by state.
Nearly 9 million children in the U.S. were enrolled in the CHIP program for the fiscal year 2016, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
What’s going on with its funding?
The program expired on Sept. 30, and a short-term funding extension was passed by Congress shortly before Christmas.
Many states have nearly exhausted their funds, and health officials worry that some could completely run out by the end of January.
“Some families have already been informed or received notice that their children’s coverage could be reduced in the future,” Samantha Artiga, an analyst at KFF, told Fox News. “Already families are feeling a lot of worry, concern and stress right now – particularly families with children who have ongoing health conditions who rely on insurance for treatments to keep them healthy and give them the care that they need.”
Artiga added that the uncertainty around CHIP funding has presented administrative and economic headaches for states that try to plan for the program’s future in an “uncertain environment.”
How is it connected to a government shutdown?
There’s growing pressure to include a reauthorization for CHIP in the government’s spending package as funds for the popular program ran out in September.
The House voted late Thursday to keep the government open with a short-term spending bill that included funding for CHIP. The plan – which has an uncertain future in the Senate – provides six years of financing for the program.
“Without this program, these children are caught in a dangerous gap that would deny them access to needed care,” the Council for Affordable Health Coverage President Joel White told Fox News. “Every day that CHIP remains without a long-term reauthorization is a day that access to health care is threatened for the most deserving and vulnerable among us.”
Every day that CHIP remains without a long-term reauthorization is a day that access to health care is threatened for the most deserving and vulnerable among us.
White urged lawmakers to vote for a spending bill that includes the funding.
“Senate Democrats have rightfully advocated for CHIP funding in recent months, and it would be the height of hypocrisy for them to oppose a spending bill with this included now.”
Joan Alker, the executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children & Families, said Congress should pass CHIP reauthorization as a standalone bill.
“What’s especially frustrating is that there’s no disagreement on the policy,” Alker told Fox News, adding that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support funding CHIP. “It’s become a bargaining chip.”
“The politics of what’s happening now with respect to CHIP have nothing to do with CHIP. The right thing to do would be to take CHIP out of this political fight and pass it by itself,” she said.
What has Trump said?
Trump urged lawmakers to make CHIP “part of a long-term solution, not a 30-day, or short-term, extension,” in a tweet earlier this month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.