More than two months have passed since Congress failed to meet the September 30 deadline to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Last year, CHIP insured nearly nine million children, including a significant number of Latino children.
If Congress fails to act soon and reauthorize CHIP funding, millions of our nation’s children stand to lose their health coverage.
Since 1997, CHIP has provided quality, affordable health coverage for millions of children living in working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage. CHIP has played a critical role in reducing the Latino child uninsured rate from 28.6% to less than 8% today, providing an essential building block for millions of Latino children and positioning them for healthier, more economically secure futures. Now, all of this progress is in serious jeopardy.
The impact of this unprecedented Congressional inaction is becoming increasingly clear. Many states have already run out of funding for their programs, and are using unspent federal funds from other states, and some are even redirecting state Medicaid funds, to keep their programs afloat. However, this is a temporary fix. Over the next few weeks and months, states will be forced to completely shut down their programs if Congress doesn’t act immediately. Parents across the country will start receiving notices informing them that their child no longer has health insurance through the CHIP program.
While state officials are doing their best to preserve their state’s CHIP programs, at least 30 states are projected to exhaust all funds by March, including states with large Latino child populations like Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Texas. No amount of budgetary gymnastics in the states can make up for continued Congressional inaction.
This week, Colorado started sending out notices informing families that their CHIP coverage will expire on January 31, 2018 if it’s funding is not renewed, while Oklahoma and Utah posted notices on their websites warning of potential coverage reductions. Other states are expected to quickly follow suit, like Texas, which has experienced an increase in enrollment due to Hurricane Harvey, and plans to end its CHIP program on January 31, 2018 if the program is not reauthorized.
Failure by Congress to act will be especially painful for Latino children. A recent study analyzing CHIP programs in ten states, including California, Florida and Texas, found that 54% of all enrollees across these states were Latino. If Congress fails to act in the next few weeks, Latino children will lose health coverage, and with it, the ability to grow up healthy.
For 20 years, CHIP has maintained bipartisan support and continues to be a widely popular program. Congressional Republican leaders’ failure to act is unconscionable and reflects their continued anti-child agenda. It’s time for Congress to prioritize the health and well-being of our nation’s children and reauthorize CHIP funding now.