Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) renewed for a decade!

By: Colin Reusch

It was another rollercoaster day and long night for Congress as lawmakers negotiated a massive spending bill to keep the government open this morning. The Senate crossed its finish line at 1:00 a.m. while the House secured votes by 5:30 a.m. — shuttering the government for 5.5 hours — but ultimately passing a spending package with significant victories for families. The president signed the bill mid-morning. In the three weeks leading up to this latest deadline, Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP) worked closely with our partners in the children’s health community to leverage what we viewed as a “no-brainer” opportunity: further extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to a full 10 years.

Negotiated by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the budget bill embraced this unique agreement. It comes after Congress had let CHIP funds lapse in September 2017, only recently reauthorizing it for 6 years. CDHP applauds Sens. Hatch and Wyden for their leadership securing this historic victory. What better way to celebrate Children’s Dental Health Month than secure a decade of comprehensive medical and dental coverage for 9 million children? It is a welcome revision for so many reasons.

  • Keeping kids covered: Most importantly, this historic and bipartisan agreement safeguards the health and family economic security of 1 in 8 kids in struggling families, as well as 300,000 pregnant women. They count on CHIP for affordable medical and dental coverage. Thanks to this new bill, they will be covered for the next 10 years.
  • Providing program stability: A decade extension also provides needed certainty to states, who share financial support for CHIP with the federal government. After CHIP expired in September, and until Congress agreed on a multi-year renewal, states had to navigate months of stop-gap funding bills. Such insecurity threatened to limit CHIP enrollment or stop coverage altogether. The new bipartisan solution to fund CHIP for 10 years offers stability to this essential program. The bill preserves key aspects of CHIP like the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) provision. The MOE requires states to maintain income eligibility in Medicaid and CHIP, and prevents states from adding barriers to enrollment that would limit children’s or families’ access to coverage.
  • Significant savings: Finally, as Children’s Dental Health Project previously highlighted, investing in CHIP for 10 years will yield $6 billion in federal savings, according to analysis by the nonpartisan U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

These significant savings will support other programs key to children’s oral health and overall well-being, and which urgently needed to be renewed. Among them are:

  • Community health centers, which provide oral health care to many individuals with limited incomes.
  • The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting grant program, which helps new parents learn how to care for their children’s oral health.
  • The Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, preserving health coverage for communities still recovering from devastating hurricanes.

All of these advances are worth celebrating. However, as with some things in life that may seem too good to be true, there is still a catch. The spending bill has not resolved a funding hurdle that might threaten CHIP’s future at the end of 10 years.

What better way to celebrate Children’s Dental Health Month than secure a decade of comprehensive medical and dental coverage for 9 million children?

While extending CHIP for a decade would save $6 billion, there remains a potential budgeting challenge for the program when renewal expires. The bill funds CHIP through 2027, but payments for that year are broken up to artificially make the program’s annual cost seem lower than its true cost. This discrepancy is known as a “funding cliff.” Given the funding shortfall it appears to create, it may pose a problem when policymakers aim to calculate CHIP’s cost beyond 2027. Advocates and policymakers will need to work in the coming years to overcome this challenge.

But for now, we will take a breath to celebrate this latest victory. CDHP appreciates the collaborative efforts of our coalition partners in helping us achieve this historic CHIP extension, as well as the efforts of individuals who took action throughout our journey to get CHIP renewed. We look forward to continuing solutions-oriented conversations with critical stakeholders to protect CHIP in perpetuity.

At a time when many other changes to the health care safety net appear to threaten access to coverage, knowing that 9 million children will stay covered for 10 years is a meaningful gain. As we move forward, protecting the coverage they count on far beyond a decade will continue to be what guides us.

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Did you know?

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Children with poor oral health were nearly 3x more likely to miss school due to dental pain.
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