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Report: FL Risks Backsliding on Children's Health Coverage

The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health insurance to low-income children who don't otherwise qualify for Medicaid. (Pawel Loj/Flickr)
The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health insurance to low-income children who don't otherwise qualify for Medicaid. (Pawel Loj/Flickr)
September 21, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida has done a lot to make sure more children have health insurance.

But that progress may be in jeopardy if Congress doesn't act soon.

A new report shows the number of children without health insurance in Florida dropped 57 percent between 2009 and 2016.

Report coauthor Joan Alker, who heads the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says the progress has come as a direct result of improvements in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

"So, this was a really positive step forward,” she stresses. “But there still are a lot more steps that need to happen for this to become a reality.

“And remember, CHIP funding is running out on Sept. 30th, so the clock is ticking."

The U.S. Senate struck a deal that's supposed to provide uninterrupted funding for five years, but Congress has yet to act to renew CHIP. Without federal action, Florida could run out of money for CHIP by January 2018 or earlier, according to the report.

The federal government and the states have historically shared the costs of the CHIP program, which currently serves more than 340,000 children in Florida.

Alker says the possibility that CHIP funding would expire would be a devastating blow to those families.

"So, Florida has a lot at stake in this CHIP discussion, because Florida has one of the largest CHIP programs in the country,” she points out. “For 2017, Florida is receiving 686 million federal dollars for this program. That's the fourth largest in this country."

Nationally, nearly 9 million children receive health insurance through the program. CHIP generally covers children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private insurance.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL