WASHINGTON—Yesterday, Rep. Fred Upton, Rep. Joe Pitts and Sen. Orrin Hatch released a discussion draft bill to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), set to expire Sept. 30, 2015. The move comes after the full Democratic Caucus backed a reauthorization bill in the Senate and a similar bill in the House of Representatives.
“While we welcome continued bipartisan commitment to protect and extend CHIP, we are troubled by some major provisions in the draft plan,” said Elizabeth G. Taylor, NHeLP executive director. “It is clear that CHIP works and is the backbone of coverage for millions of kids. As we work together on a plan to extend funding, we must not accept changes that mark a retreat from our commitment to give children access to the health care they need.”
The committee’s plan would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions that govern CHIP and Medicaid coverage through 2019. The plan would also eliminate another important ACA provision that has protected children’s coverage. States would be allowed to shift children from Medicaid to CHIP, resulting in less access to critical early childhood care and subjecting their families to higher co-pays and out-of-pocket costs when they are already struggling financially.
In addition, the plan proposes a series of changes under the guise of giving states more flexibility in how they manage their programs, at the expense of the children they cover. States would be allowed to impose waiting periods, for example, that could lock needy children out of coverage for a year. Lastly, the plan would completely eliminate federal CHIP funding for states to cover children with family incomes above 300 percent of poverty and reduce federal matching funds for those above 250 percent. The Georgetown Center for Children and Families estimates this would impact 29 states.
“The take home message here is not all CHIP reauthorization plans are the same,” said Mara Youdelman, managing attorney in NHeLP’s DC office. “CHIP needs to keep the focus on kids. And that means maintaining the program in a way that improves their lives for the better—not subjecting them to waiting periods and eliminating crucial legal protections.”