No Set Federal Notice Period for CHIP – States Decide How Much Notice to Give Families Losing Coverage

CHIP Funding Delay Forces States to Make Tough Decision on When to Notify Families

According to a new brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation, at least five states (Colorado, Connecticut, Texas, Virginia, and Utah) plan to end coverage for children enrolled in separate CHIP programs by January 31, 2017. One of those states (Colorado) has started to notify families that their children may lose coverage if Congress does not renew CHIP funding before the holidays, and several more are on the verge of sending notices.

While there is a federal requirement that states must provide each applicant or enrollee with timely and adequate written notice of any decision that would affect his or her eligibility, federal regulations DO NOT specify a period of advance notice that must be given. States decide how much advance notice to give families.

42 CFR 457.340(e) Notice of eligibility determinations. The State must provide each applicant or enrollee with timely and adequate written notice of any decision affecting his or her eligibility, including an approval, denial or termination, or suspension of eligibility, consistent with §§457.315, 457.348, and 457.350. The notice must be written in plain language; and accessible to persons who are limited English proficient and individuals with disabilities, consistent with §435.905(b) of this chapter and §457.110.

CHIP directors and child health advocates are weighing the pros and cons of notifying families. On one hand, Congressional leaders continue to say that CHIP will get done, so notifying families may result in unnecessary confusion and stress (not to mention money wasted on printing and postage). On the other hand, we’ve been hearing assurances that CHIP funding will be extended for weeks, and yet a critical deadline of December 8th is about to pass without Congress following through on that promise. How much longer can states hold out? If Congress fails to act, a month doesn’t give families a lot of time to explore alternatives.

As a former CHIP director, I know I would be struggling with this decision – damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Congress can put this issue to bed by renewing CHIP funding instead of kicking the can down the road. While wealthy corporations and individuals aren’t going to be hurt if tax cuts don’t get done, families whose children rely on CHIP will.

Tricia Brooks is a Research Professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families.