Though Congress has passed a stopgap measure to help states facing funding shortfalls, lawmakers aren’t likely to approve long-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program before the end of the year.
The temporary patch was included in the short-term spending bill that Congress passed on Thursday, which keeps the government running until Dec. 22. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services to prioritize “emergency shortfall states” over other states when allocating unspent CHIP funding from previous years.
Federal funding for CHIP expired Sept. 30, and congressional efforts to reauthorize it have been beset by partisan disputes. The Senate Finance Committee advanced one version of a CHIP reauthorization bill, but it included no offsets, and a version passed by the House drew fire from Democrats because it makes cuts to other healthcare programs to pay for the legislation.
With that disagreement over offsets still simmering, it’s unlikely that Congress will be able to pass a CHIP reauthorization bill in 2017. Such legislation will almost certainly take a back seat as Republicans rush to pass their tax bill before the holiday recess and push through a year-end spending measure.
But that provides little comfort to the states that are in danger of having to shut down CHIP for lack of funding. Colorado has already sent notices to families advising them to start researching private health insurance options, and others are preparing to follow suit. Virginia, for example, sent a letter to enrollees today that says if Congress doesn’t act soon, the FAMIS program—its version of CHIP—will end by Jan. 31, 2018.
The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission has estimated that all states will exhaust their federal CHIP coffers in fiscal year 2018 unless federal funding is extended. Arizona, California, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon and the District of Columbia all have predicted they will run out of money as soon as the end of the year, according to a Georgetown University survey.