It is said that all politics is local, and nothing could be more accurate than with the Congressional delay in reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This inaction could result in thousands of Kansas children losing health insurance coverage, which could in turn affect their education.
Congress created CHIP in 1997. The program offers health insurance to children whose families earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but who can’t afford private coverage. Congress reauthorized CHIP in 2015, but funding ran out Sept. 30.
According to the Kansas Association of School Boards,in federal Fiscal Year 2017, 38,000 Kansas children were enrolled in CHIP. CHIP allows states to create their own health insurance programs as a CHIP-funded expansion of Medicaid, as a separate program, or as a combination of the two. State officials declined to participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, so Kansas is known as a “separate CHIP” state. The Kansas Healthwave program is part of CHIP.
A U.S. Senate proposal to extend CHIP authorization for five years — and ensure a federal matching fund rate of 92 percent of state costs — has stalled, raising the possibility that Kansas will run out of federal CHIP funding early in 2018. Because the state and the federal government share the costs of administering the CHIP program, loss of federal dollars could result in increased costs to the state or even the termination of the program in Kansas, the KASB reports.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government’s CHIP match rate was increased by 23 percent for the federal fiscal years 2016-2019. In FY 2017, the federal share covered 92 percent ($105 million) of total Kansas CHIP costs of $114 million, leaving the state share at roughly $8.9 million. The state Legislature assumed the enhanced marching rate would continue and adopted its budget accordingly.
What are the options? None are very appealing.
The state can wait until funds expire, which would be the end of March, 2018 for Kansas, terminate CHIP and switch children to other coverage options on the health insurance marketplace, requiring their parents to apply for that coverage (the cost could prompt some to drop coverage) or impose enrollment caps.
We can only hope it doesn’t come to this. Our children are being held hostage by those in Washington fighting over the future of healthcare reform.
Kansas students’ overall health directly affects their ability to come to school ready to learn.