Federal extension for children’s health care funding

Boston Statehouse
CHIP Markey_776361

BOSTON (SHNS) – Federal funding for children’s health care, which was running on fumes last month, got a jolt of congressional cash in late 2017 that should last through March in the Bay State, according to the Baker administration.

A short-term government funding bill that passed at the end of the year included a provision providing $2.85 billion for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), putting off a larger budget debate that could include immigration and border security.

The federal government paid nearly $14.5 billion for CHIP expenses in fiscal 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The short-term federal budget runs through Friday, Jan. 19, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services published preliminary information indicating Massachusetts would receive $119.7 million in CHIP funding as part of the funding extension.

CHIP covers health care for 8.9 million children in families that do not qualify for Medicaid but have trouble affording market-rate private insurance.

Before the recent federal funding bill passed, Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders estimated CHIP money would run out in mid-January unless Congress took action. Funding for the program in Massachusetts in now expected to run out by April.

Since a September deadline passed without CHIP reauthorization by Congress, funding in Massachusetts has included a combination of fiscal 2017 carry-over funds and “redistribution funding” from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the Baker administration.

If Congress does not fully fund CHIP and MassHealth maintained the current program, Massachusetts would lose out on an estimated $147.5 million in fiscal 2018 and $295 million annually starting in fiscal 2019, according to the Office of Health and Human Services.

“Americans are tired of waiting on their government to do the right thing – lives are depending on it. Let’s end this waiting game and #FundCHIPNow,” U.S. Sen. Ed Markey tweeted on Wednesday.

In November, the U.S. House passed a bill that Republican leaders said would provide a five-year extension to the CHIP program. That bill passed 242-174 largely on party lines as Democrats objected to funding offsets, including “cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, Medicare means testing for wealthier seniors, changes to Medicaid third party liability and changes to the grace period for Affordable Care Act plans,” according to Boston Children’s Hospital. The bill was not taken up by the U.S. Senate.

The short-term budget also made cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, according to an aide to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who said that fund is critical for children’s health, too.

Some states will reach the bottom of their CHIP funding before March, according to an analysis published Wednesday by Kaiser, which said that before the funding extension 18 states estimated they would run out of money by the end of January.

After Congress provided short-term funding, Connecticut reopened enrollment in CHIP and indicated coverage would continue through February up until March 1, according to Kaiser.

As Republicans on Capitol Hill spent much of the fall cobbling together a tax reform package, Democrats criticized them for missing a September deadline without replenishing CHIP.On D

ec. 28, Congressman Joe Kennedy sent out a fundraising email heralding the recent birth of his son, and contrasting his family’s happiness with the “panic and fear” that others were experiencing amid uncertainty over CHIP funding.

“Meanwhile, families in Alabama found a notice on the Department of Public Health’s website saying that it would freeze enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program on the first of the year, and they would not renew any coverage after that date,” Kennedy wrote. “Meanwhile, Colorado and Connecticut families received letters informing them that their children may soon lose CHIP coverage.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics will hold a conference call Friday to urge Congress to pass long-term funding for CHIP. Every Child Matters, a non-partisan non-profit, urged the public to call on their elected representatives to “act immediately on a 5-year CHIP reauthorization.”

“The short term patch that lawmakers included in an end-of-year funding deal only provides momentary relief,” the organization wrote. “Funding is still set to run out as early as January 19 in some states.”

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