Congress Extends CHIP and Other Vital Health Programs for Two More Years

Late in the evening on April 14, 2015, the Senate passed H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which extends federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two more years. With only months until federal funding for CHIP would have run out, the passage of the bill ensures that children and pregnant women across the U.S. will be able to retain their CHIP coverage.

As CKF highlighted last year, CHIP is federally authorized until 2019, but funding for the program was scheduled to run out by September 30, 2015. H.R. 2 extends federal funding for the program until September 30, 2017.

This is good news for Colorado kids. Not only would the state of Colorado have experienced a budget shortfall this year if federal funding for CHIP was not approved, Colorado’s CHIP program, Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), which covers more than 53,000 children and pregnant women in the state, would have been in immediate jeopardy.

Funding for CHIP was added to the must-pass repeal of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula used to reimburse Medicare providers. Without action on the SGR by April 15, 2015, Congress would have imposed a steep 21 percent reimbursement rate cut to Medicare providers. Luckily, the Senate voted on the evening on April 14 to pass H.R. 2 with a strongly bipartisan outcome; 92 senators voted yes, and only eight voted no. Both of Colorado’s senators, Senator Bennet and Senator Gardner, voted in favor of the bill.

What does H.R. 2 do for CHIP?

H.R. 2 extends federal CHIP funding at current levels for two more years. In addition, it:

  • Maintains levitra dosage maximum CHIP’s current financing structure
  • Continues to authorize express lane eligibility
  • Includes a 23 percentage-point increase to the federal CHIP match beginning October 1, 2015
  • Continues the maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement that states maintain eligibility levels and enrollment processes for children through 2019

What other health programs are impacted by H.R. 2?

CHIP was not the only health program included in the bill. H.R. 2 also extends two years of funding to:

  • Federally qualified Community Health Centers
  • Teaching Health Centers
  • National Health Service Corps
  • Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program

What’s next for CHIP?

Colorado can count on two more years of CHIP funding to help the state provide high quality health insurance coverage to low-income kids and pregnant women through CHP+.

There is more work to be done, however. In two more years, Congress may again debate extending funding for CHIP, and children’s health advocates would be tapped to express the importance of CHIP in providing high quality, affordable health coverage to kids and pregnant women.

In the meantime, the state may explore other ways to keep lower income kids covered. Because the MOE provision still stands, in the event that CHIP funding is not extended past September 2017, the state would need to ensure that kids currently covered by CHP+ will have access to comparable coverage. Several options exist, including expanding Medicaid to higher income levels, or working with marketplace insurance providers to develop a children’s private insurance plan with comparable coverage to CHP+.

Although the future of CHIP after 2017 is uncertain, there is no question that CKF will be monitoring CHIP funding issues closely over the next two years, and will work closely with the CKF coalition, partner organizations, and state agencies to protect kids’ coverage in Colorado.

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Stephanie Brooks is the Policy Analyst for Colorado Covering Kids and Families (CKF). CKF's mission is to increase access to affordable health coverage and high quality health care by ensuring that Medicaid, Child Health Plan Plus, and subsidized private insurance through Colorado’s state-based marketplace consistently meet the needs of low-income Coloradans. The Colorado Community Health Network is the lead agency for the project.