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Over 9 million people need Congress to fund CHIP

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides affordable health coverage to 9 million children from lower-income households, including thousands here in Mississippi.

It helps families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Technically, the program’s authorization ended in October of last year, meaning states were forced to use unspent funds to carry them over while Congress worked on a solution.

But Congress didn’t find a long-term solution, and now some states will likely run out of funding for the program this month. Congress extended short-term funding on Dec. 21 and said states should have plenty of funds to use until a long-term solution was found.

But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Friday that states could begin running out of money Jan. 19. If that happens, these states will have to freeze enrollment or find another way to fund the program.

“The funding … should carry all the states through Jan. 19 based upon best estimates of state expenditures to date,” said CMS spokesman Johnathan Monroe. “However, due to a number of variables relating to state expenditure rates and reporting, we are unable to say with certainty whether there is enough funding for every state to continue its CHIP program through March 31, 2018.”

The uncertainty is no doubt stressful for families who depend on the program. “This confusion could result in some potential coverage losses, for example, if a family does not renew coverage because they believe it is no longer available. Moreover, families face increasing concerns and worries about how they will meet the health care needs of their children if their state eliminates their CHIP coverage,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy non-profit.

If states are forced to stop enrollment due to the funding issue, families will seek health coverage for their children elsewhere. And that insurance will be comparatively expensive and likely unaffordable for many.

The House has passed a bill that would extend CHIP funding for five years, but the full Senate has yet to take action on any legislation. We encourage Mississippi’s senators to work to extend this program before the funding runs out and before families lose coverage. Funding CHIP is basic good governance. Failing to do so fails the country.