Children’s Health Insurance Program Deserves Funding

“Insuring kids isn’t just an act of kindness; it’s an investment in a better-educated, healthier and more productive population.”

In what may be a hopelessly quixotic effort, supporters of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program are trying to persuade Congress to renew its funding almost a year in advance — and in a lame-duck session. Nevertheless, lawmakers ought to heed that call. The program plugs a troubling gap between Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s subsidized plans, and states need to know whether they can count on federal funding or whether they will have to spend far more dollars of their own.

Insuring kids isn’t just an act of kindness; it’s an investment in a better-educated, healthier and more productive population. That’s why CHIP enjoyed strong bipartisan support when it was created in 1997 to provide coverage for children whose families earned too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private policies. Since then, CHIP has helped cut the uninsurance rate for children in half. The program now protects more than 10 million children in low- and moderate-income families, including nearly 800,000 in California. The federal government also pays a larger share of the medical expenses than it does in Medicaid — in California, it’s 65%, compared with 50% for Medi-Cal. That share will increase to 88% in October 2015.

Here’s the problem. While the 2010 Affordable Care Act extended CHIP for nine years, it provided money only through September 2015. States are now drawing up budgets for the next fiscal year, which typically runs through June 2016. Without federal matching dollars, they’ll be hard-pressed to continue the program without cutting the benefits provided, the number of children covered or the payments to doctors and hospitals, which in California are already dangerously low.

Read full LA Times Editorial here…