The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a federal program providing health coverage for low to middle income children, was allowed to expire on September 30.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimates the program can continue on until the end of February 2018 without federal backing, according to the Texas Tribune. Lawmakers have said they’re working on a plan to get funds for the program before that happens, and over 390,000 Texans are without insurance coverage.
From 1997 to 2015, CHIP reduced the number of uninsured kids across the U.S. from 25 percent to just five percent. Now, Maureen Hensley-Quinn of the National Academy for State Health Policy says “there may come a time when [states] have to send families letters” dis-enrolling them from the program.
According to the Tribune, 340,000 children in Texas that don’t qualify for Medicaid are covered under CHIP, and another 249,000 kids who are on Medicaid still benefit from CHIP’s matching rate of 92 percent. The two programs together cover almost half the kids in Texas.
No one in Congress seems to know why CHIP was allowed to pass the September 30 renewal deadline without being reauthorized.
“Inaction by Congress so far has created a real threat to the stability of the infrastructure of health services for millions of Texans,” Mimi Garcia, a spokesperson for the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, said in an interview. Community health centers also saw a cut when the September 30 deadline came and went; about 70 percent of their federal funding expired.
There is still time for the plan to be renewed, and the National Academy of State Health Policy is preparing to work with states to construct contingency plans in case it isn’t, according to Hensley-Quinn. Renewal dates for CHIP plans have also been given six months of leeway in communities affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The Senate Finance Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee are currently negotiating a deal for CHIP’s renewal, and lawmakers are hoping for a deal by Wednesday.