Last month’s congressional funding Band-Aid to keep the federal government in business included $2.85 billion in stopgap money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That’s far short of the five-year $8 billion CHIP extension advocates had sought.
Even more worrying, after partisan squabbles allowed the program to lapse Sept. 30, is that “it’s unclear how long [that funding] will actually allow all states to continue operating their CHIP programs,” warns the National Academy for State Health Policy.
Before Congress acted last month, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, which advises Congress, had projected that Arizona, the District of Columbia, Minnesota and North Carolina would exhaust CHIP funding by Dec. 31.
And CHIP is just one piece of federal health assistance programs aimed at at-risk families and children who need a long-term funding solution.
Last month’s temporary budget fix, H.R. 1370, also provided $550 million for community health centers that serve more than 25 million, many in struggling communities — enough to last only through March 31.
In a bipartisan appeal on behalf of the National Governors Association, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Democratic Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon called on Congress — after it allowed CHIP and community health center funding to lapse last year — to consider the “urgent needs of states and families” by restoring money.
CHIP needs to regain long-term funding. It works to safeguard the health of children, and long has enjoyed bipartisan support.
Democrats and Republicans should set aside the partisan rancor over unrelated health policy issues and compromise on a clean solution, even if it isn’t the full five years of CHIP funding that advocates want.
Nationwide, CHIP provides health care coverage to 9 million low-to-moderate-income children and about 370,000 pregnant women, cleveland.com’s Sabrina Eaton reports.
In Ohio, covering the 200,000 children enrolled in CHIP costs about $45 million a month — a cost Ohio funds via Medicaid. For Ohio’s vulnerable children, that’s an upside of sorts, since the program will continue even if CHIP money runs out. The downside: Federal reimbursement for Ohio Medicaid costs is 63 cents per dollar; CHIP reimbursement is 97 cents per dollar. So, if Congress doesn’t fully fund CHIP, Ohio’s percentage share of CHIP costs would rise steeply.
Leaving CHIP in budget limbo subject to continuing partisan slingshots is a disgrace. Congress must act, in a bipartisan manner, on a clean compromise that assures long-term funding, and it must do so without delay.
This editorial was written by the opinion staff of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.
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