A Ten Year CHIP Extension Presents a Rare Win-Win Opportunity for Congress

Two weeks ago, I blogged about a new CBO score for the KIDS Act – extending CHIP funding for 5 years was on sale for the bargain price of $800 million. Last week, CBO released another update – extending CHIP funding for 10 years would save $6 billion. The rationale for both scores is the same; covering a child in CHIP (which offers more robust and affordable coverage for children) is now a lot cheaper for the federal government than covering a child in the Marketplace (where premiums are expected to skyrocket following the repeal of the individual mandate).

But this new score – 10 years of CHIP saving $6 billion – presents an opportunity that should not be missed. Congress now has the chance to provide children, their families, and states with stable coverage while saving the government money. This is a rare win-win situation.

Given the win-win situation here, I was surprised to see that the proposal for the next continuing resolution would fund CHIP for just 6 years. Why 6 years? Why give up the opportunity to stabilize children’s coverage and continue to make progress covering more and more children? We know that having coverage as a child leads to healthier, more productive teenage and adult years, and we know that CHIP has helped reduce the number of uninsured children to historic lows.

We also know that coverage alone is not enough. Children need access to providers and other family supports to live healthy lives. So why is Congress considering leaving other important health programs behind, like the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, Family to Family, and funding for community health centers?

State leaders must be scratching their heads, too. By taking advantage of this win-win opportunity, Congress could free up states to focus on other parts of their CHIP programs like delivery system reforms and quality improvement instead of crunching numbers in preparation for shutting down.

It hard to come up with any reason not to extend CHIP for ten years.

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