CHIP's federal funding has expired

By: Meg Booth

The Children’s Dental Health Project and its partners call on Congress to immediately pass legislation to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). As of October 1, federal funding for CHIP has expired, and states will not receive any money for the program until Congress takes action. The fact that Congress has allowed CHIP to go over its funding cliff is especially disappointing given the repeated calls for action by the children’s health and oral health communities in recent months.

Nearly 9 million children who currently count on CHIP for medical and dental coverage are now at risk of losing access to the care they need.

On Friday, CDHP joined with 7 other major children’s health groups in sharing a statement reacting to the news of this expiration and urging immediate congressional action. Later today, we’ll be issuing a joint statement with the American Dental Association, co-signed by over 100 organizations from across the country.  

CHIP is a partnership between states and the federal government that provides vital insurance coverage to children and pregnant women whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but would struggle to afford private coverage and care. CHIP is a bipartisan success story that organizations and leaders of all different stripes agree is good policy. In 1997, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) led the fight to authorize this critical safety net because he understood that  ''children are being terribly hurt and perhaps scarred for the rest of their lives.'' In 2016, 8.9 million children were covered by CHIP.

Some policymakers are suggesting that states can buffer this blow, but it is clear that there are real and immediate ramifications.

By allowing funding for the program to lapse, Congress is leaving states, and more importantly, the children they cover, vulnerable and facing an uncertain future. Some policymakers are suggesting that states can buffer this blow, but it is clear that there are real and immediate ramifications:

  • In Minnesota, the Commissioner of the State Department of Human Services wrote to her Congressional delegation describing the “extraordinary measures” necessary to continue coverage in October.
  • Earlier this month, Colorado posted a notice on its website that CHIP funding might end.
  • Utah officials have begun taking steps to shut down their CHIP program if Congress doesn’t provide funding, leaving children in a complicated and precarious position.
  • In Arizona, the CHIP program can immediately freeze enrollment without federal funding.

On top of these documented actions, states are being forced to come up with contingency and shut-down plans, instead of supporting children’s health.

Above all, we must consider families. Not just the families who may postpone necessary check-ups for fear they will not be covered, but also the parents who may have a child in critical care today, who do not know what their coverage may look like tomorrow. Providers are equally concerned about the implications of providing care to patients who may not be able to cover the out-of-pocket costs of unreimbursed care.

We applaud Senate Finance Chairman Senator Hatch and Senate Finance ranking member Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) for their leadership in introducing the Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act (S. 1827). We strongly support this bipartisan bill and its plan to maintain CHIP programs for the next 5 years. While we are encouraged that the bill is scheduled to come before the Senate Finance committee on Wednesday, we need your help to ensure that the Senate swiftly passes the bill and works in partnership with the House to see it across the finish line. Every day that passes without funding, puts more kids at risk, and we need your help now so that policymakers can feel the urgency that parents, providers and states are feeling.

Contact your members of Congress today. Urge our Senators to cosponsor the KIDS Act (S. 1827), and to push for Senate approval as soon as possible. Tell your members of the House of Representatives, that they should move the KIDS Act to the House floor for its immediate approval. For resources on contacting elected officials, sharing this information on social media, or talking points on CHIP, visit our “Why Dental Coverage Matters” Toolkit.

''Children are being terribly hurt and perhaps scarred for the rest of their lives.'' Let’s not repeat these same mistakes.

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