They haven’t, however, told her how they would pay for the program if the federal dollars dry up.
Created in 1997, the Children’s Health Insurance Program gives states financial support to expand publicly funded coverage to uninsured children who are not eligible for Medicaid. CHIP works by giving states block grants that must be matched with state dollars.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Center on Children and Families at Georgetown University, worries about the families who will receive notification that Congress hasn’t acted. Those
families, she said, might not sign up their children even if funding is restored.
In states that run the program through the Medicaid program, a financial hit is inevitable. States “are walking such a fine line,” she said. “They don’t want to alarm families, but they can’t wait forever because they have to run a program … a lot of states are really on the edge right now.”
CHIP traditionally has received overwhelming support, and Ohio’s two senators remain supportive.
“I strongly support the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said Republican Rob Portman. “And I would urge the Senate to pass our bipartisan proposal as quickly as possible.”
Democrat Sherrod Brown also considers it a no–brainer.
“This place is so dysfunctional … that all over the country now families are getting letters saying ‘Health insurance is going to be cut off for your children,’” he said. “To let those letters go out — it’s just damn near criminal.”
Brown blames GOP leadership for prioritizing the tax bill over reauthorizing CHIP. The House passed a bill in early November to extend
the program for five years, doing so in part by raising Medicare rates for wealthier seniors. And the Senate Finance Committee also passed a bill extending the program last month. But the full Senate has yet to take up the measure.
“It doesn’t fit within their goals,” Brown said.
Senate Republicans think Congress will extend the program when it passes a government spending bill in mid-December.
Still, the delay has been maddening for advocates such as Slaughter.
“This is something everyone wants to do,” she said. “Why is this so hard?”