States across the entire country are struggling to find a way to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program after long-term funding for it was not renewed by Congress.
A short-term $2.85 billion funding extension was approved by lawmakers last weeks, following criticism by CHIP supporters who argue that Congress allowed for children’s insurance to lapse while focusing on the less important and far-reaching tax overhaul.
According to state officials, however, the temporary funding which is supposed to last through January, is not sufficient for states to be able to plan more than several weeks in advance. As a result, Connecticut has frozen enrollment in the program, while several other states have notified families that benefits could be curtailed in January.
CHIP, which was created over two decades ago, provides coverage for 9 million children who come from families earning too much to qualify for Medicaid but still struggle with paying for coverage for their children.
“We desperately need to get this resolved. We need long-term funding,” Cathy Caldwell, Alabama’s CHIP director, said.
If the short-term bill was not allowed by Congress, Alabama as well would have frozen enrollments on the first day of next year. However, Caldwell said, “it really is just kicking the can down the road for a number of weeks.”
Funding for the program lapsed on September 30 due to bipartisan bickering, despite its popularity. The parties are fighting over how to pay for it, with Republicans proposing to do so by cutting other health spendings, which Democrats strongly oppose.
They pushed the dispute into January, hoping that would give them leverage when negotiating a longer-term spending bill and an immigration deal which will certainly require their votes.
Nevertheless, they took on the opportunity to criticize Republicans for failing to provide funding for CHIP.
“The idea that you have a bunch of people going to the White House to yuk it up and tell the president how great he is, but they’ve cut off 9 million children from health care, makes no sense at all,” Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said.
Republicans dismissed the criticism but agreed the issue was urgent.