Gains in Children’s Health Coverage at Risk if Bump in Funding Eliminated

Those of you at our annual conference in July are already familiar with the bump dance craze that took the world by storm in the summer of 1975. But ICYMI, there’s a new bump that’s all the rage these days – the increase in federal funding for CHIP. Starting in fiscal year 2016, states received an extra 23 percentage point match for CHIP expenditures, bringing the average federal CHIP match up to 93%. Under current law, the bump continues through fiscal year 2019, but with a CHIP funding extension up for debate in 2017, inquiring minds want to know – what has the bump achieved?

Perhaps most notably, the bump lead to Arizona re-opening its CHIP program, KidsCare. As Say Ahhh! readers know from guest blogger Joe Fu, Arizona decided to lift the freeze on KidsCare only after learning that Arizona qualified for 100% federal funding. If this funding is diminished, the statute directs the state Medicaid agency to freeze enrollment again.

But the bump brought good news to kids in other states too. As of July 1, 2016, lawfully residing immigrant children in Florida and Utah are able to enroll in Medicaid and CHIP without waiting five years. The bump brought Florida’s match rate to 95% and Utah’s to 100%, helping advocates break through to improve coverage for immigrant children.

The bump also freed up state resources to expand coverage to all kids, regardless of immigration status. For example, in Illinois, the bump helped prevent a cut to a program covering all kids that was otherwise set to expire.

It is often difficult to document how states use additional federal Medicaid and CHIP resources because the additional funding frees up state funding that can be used in myriad ways. But in the case of the bump, we have tangible evidence that for kids in at least these four states, the bump has brought comprehensive, affordable coverage to many children that would have been uninsured otherwise.

Kelly Whitener is an Associate Professor of the Practice at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families.