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CHIP Funding Comes Down to the Wire: What About KY Kids?

Will the Senate wait until January to consider reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program? (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Will the Senate wait until January to consider reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program? (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
December 21, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. – It is down to the wire for Congress to pass a long term funding bill for the Children's Health Insurance Program, and a new report shows that if lawmakers don't act soon nearly two million children, including 38,000 in Kentucky, could lose coverage in January.

CHIP funding expired in September, and lawmakers recently approved a patch that reallocates funds from states that have not exhausted their own CHIP funds.

But Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says it's robbing Peter to pay Paul.

"We know that Congress is anxious to leave town, but they must act on a long-term CHIP extension before they go or children will start to lose coverage in January,” she points out. “Families need the peace of mind as they head into this holiday season that their children's CHIP coverage will be secure."

The report from the Georgetown Center shows that Kentucky is among the states that will exhaust funding by the end of January.

The U.S. House passed a bill to renew CHIP funding in September.

This week, some top Republicans said the Senate would consider reauthorization after the first of the year along with other health spending measures.

As a pediatric emergency medicine physician, Dr. Sam Bartle with the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, says he's concerned that without CHIP coverage, some parents won't be able to get their children needed medical care.

"They're going to be starting to question, 'Should I bring them in now or can I wait?’” he points out. “’Is this wheezing, this difficulty breathing, bad enough to come in or is this a bad injury? Should it be seen now or can I wait until later and see if it gets better?' These are the things that are a concern. For some conditions, that can be deadly."

Alker says it's important to note that Congress’ patch offers no additional funding, and essentially drains the reallocation funding faster by providing extra funds to states running out of CHIP money first.

"A short-term patch is not the way to go when we have a five-year, bipartisan policy agreement that's been fully vetted and will work," she stresses, "instead of the short-term patches that not everybody understands the consequences of when they pass."

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he is prioritizing a CHIP extension as part of a year-end spending deal.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY