Congressional Leaders Signal They Intend to Kick the Can Down the Road on CHIP

It appears that Congress is planning to kick the can further down the road rather than finally approve the bipartisan plan to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program this week. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Walden has signaled that he wants to allow CMS to shift unused CHIP funding (currently reserved for states that are still in good shape) to those that have already been allotted their portion of unused funds and are at risk of running out soon.

Funding for CHIP expired two months ago and it was widely hoped that Congress would attach a bipartisan agreement to extend CHIP for five years to the short-term Continuing Resolution expected to be passed by December 8th when the current government funding runs out.

The delay in long-term funding is bad news for children, families and states that are anxiously awaiting action by Congress to provide long-term stability to this vital program that meets the health care needs of children from families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage and too little to afford private insurance.

At least two states have already taken steps to notify families that their children’s coverage could end if Congress doesn’t act soon. Other states have been holding off to see whether or not Congress would act on December 8. With this further delay, it’s likely that more states will have to send notifications.

The longer Congress postpones action on long-term CHIP funding, the more states will be forced to waste time and money developing contingency plans. The more states that send out notices, the more likely it will be that some kids will fall through the cracks. The clock is ticking.

Joan Alker is the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families and a Research Professor at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy.