In 2016, 8.9 million children were enrolled in CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program that has been in place for two decades. Now, Congress is struggling to agree on a funding plan to keep the program going.
“The CHIP program is a program funded by the federal government which allows us here in Washington to cover children with a little bit higher income than our Medicaid program. So in Washington we cover children between 250 percent of the federal poverty level and up to 312 percent of the federal poverty level,” said Mary Wood, the assistant director for the Division of Medicaid Eligibility and Community Support, on KIRO Radio’s Seattle Morning News.
For example, the children in a family of five would qualify for free healthcare if the family’s gross monthly income is less than $3,694. Children in a family of four would qualify for free care if the family’s gross monthly income is less than $3,153.
In Washington, 58,000 children receive healthcare through CHIP.
CHIP itself is still authorized, but Congress has yet to reauthorize the money to pay for it, Wood said. The CHIP funds technically ran out on September 30.
Many states across the country had unspent funds that they could use to keep the program going through the end of the year. Washington, however, did not.
“The federal government was able to give us some redistribution dollars,” Wood said. “For the last three months, they have sent us $10.3 million each month to continue to operate our CHIP program.”
There has been some good news this week regarding children’s healthcare. Included in the temporary spending bill that Congress passed to prevent a government shutdown was $2.85 billion in funding for the program.
“Hopefully those dollars would take states nationally through the end of March,” Wood said. “We are thankful that at least we have some assurance now that we can continue to run our programs.”
Wood said she hopes Congress comes to a more long-term decision regarding CHIP, so states no longer have to scramble for money each month.
“This is one of the few programs that has really broad bipartisan support,” she said. “We have heard from both sides that folks want to reauthorize this and plan on getting it done. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet.”