Why Congress must act to extend CHIP

Policymakers need more time to determine how best to handle health coverage for low-income children in the post-healthcare reform market, MedPageToday reported. So Congress should extend funding for Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) before it ends next year.

That was the message shared Thursday by members of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), who cautioned against the belief that Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act would eliminate the need for CHIP.

However, MACPAC noted that only 44 percent of CHIP enrollees would qualify for subsidized reform coverage, and health insurance exchange plans have higher copayments, premiums and deductibles than CHIP plans, MedPage reported.

"If we just let CHIP end as the statute calls for, we would have drastic holes and changes,"  MACPAC Commissioner Andrea Cohen and director of health services in the New York City mayor's office said Thursday. "You can't just let CHIP end and have no other policy."

To close those coverage holes, MACPAC--which makes recommendations to Congress on the Medicaid and CHIP programs--should advocate for a transition from the existing CHIP program to one that fully covers children through exchange plans, according to MACPAC Commissioner Judy Moore, a health consultant in Annapolis, Md.

Adding to the calls to extend CHIP, organizations and policymakers from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., are urging President Barack Obama to stop dramatic funding cuts next year, the Chicago Bureau reported.

"As states are adjusting to a variety of health system changes, it is essential that Congress secure CHIP's future this year so that states can operate their programs without interruption," more than 400 local, state and national organizations wrote yesterday in a letter, led by the bipartisan group First Focus.

If Congress fails to ensure continued funding for the program, about 12.7 million children could lose their CHIP coverage in 2016, according to the letter.

To learn more:
- read the MedPageToday article
- here's the Chicago Bureau article
- check out the letter (.pdf)