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Congress Fails To Renew CHIP, Putting VA Children's Care At Risk

About 95 percent of Virginia children have health coverage, many thanks to the federal CHIP program. But, due to Congressional inaction, the future of that program is now uncertain. (Pixabay)
About 95 percent of Virginia children have health coverage, many thanks to the federal CHIP program. But, due to Congressional inaction, the future of that program is now uncertain. (Pixabay)
October 9, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Congress debates renewing the Children's Health Insurance Program, almost 9 million kids are at risk of losing their health care.

The program, called CHIP, has traditionally had bipartisan support. But this year, the House and Senate missed an October 1 deadline to reauthorize it, and advocates say efforts have stalled over partisan bickering.

Kim Robinson, a program manager with the Southern Regional Office of the Children's Defense Fund, said if CHIP is not renewed, states could begin running short of funds by the beginning of 2018.

"We're hoping that it's going to be a five-year fix and that states aren't having to spend their time and energy and under-resourced resources to come up with a contingency plan to try to make up the funding should CHIP run out,” Robinson said.

News reports said as of late last week, a bill to re-fund CHIP had passed out of committee in the Senate. But in the House, Republican calls for changes in funding brought negotiations to a standstill. Democrats are refusing to support a GOP plan to take funds from the Affordable Care Act and Medicare to pay for CHIP.

Robinson said officials in many states put their 2018 budget together assuming CHIP would be funded. But she said they're getting nervous over when - or if - the federal money will arrive.

"It does make me have a little bit of anxiety for new applications that came in on October 1 and what happened with those children,” she said. "This is a block-granted program and it's all dependent upon how much money there is."

Robinson said if the CHIP program ends or is interrupted, it would hit low-income families hardest.

"There is always a concern whenever any program comes to sunset,” she said. "With the CHIP program in particular, it covers a larger amount of children, because we're talking about the South, where a lot of poverty exists."

The CHIP program was created in 1997 by two senators, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy with support from both sides of the aisle.

More information on the CHIP program is available at Medicaid.gov/chip.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA