Today, House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman introduced legislation to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2019. Without this legislation, no new funding for the CHIP program will be available after September of 2015. Reps. Pallone and Waxman were among the original authors of the 1997 CHIP program, which has traditionally garnered strong bipartisan support at the federal and state level, and has grown to provide health insurance to more than 8 million children as well as pregnant women today.
Ranking Member Pallone noted, "CHIP is responsible for providing millions of children around the United States with access to affordable health care. Unless Congress acts to continue funding for this essential program, many children will lose their coverage by October 2015. The legislation I wrote with Mr. Waxman would provide states with four more years of funding to ensure our young people will have access to the care they need."
"CHIP is critical for ensuring health insurance coverage for millions of children is affordable and accessible," said Ranking Member Waxman. "Without it, many children could lose coverage. Our legislation provides states with the certainty of an additional four years of funding, ensuring there are no disruptions to children's coverage, and provides important flexibilities to further streamline states' CHIP programs."
The bill, the CHIP Extension and Improvement Act of 2014, makes a number of program improvements to reduce bureaucracy and increase state flexibility. The bill provides states with a permanent option to use "Express Lane Eligibility" which reduces administrative burdens for both states and beneficiaries and would also allow states the flexibility to use this option to enroll adults. States that are currently using this flexibility, which is set to expire next year, have reported significant administrative savings. According to a Mathematic evaluation of Express Lane, states using this process experienced an average of $1 million per year in recurring net savings.
An important theme of the bill is increasing participation among eligible children. CHIP has directly contributed (along with Medicaid) to a record low uninsured rate among children. The CHIP legislation would also continue a program that rewards states for adopting best practices and exceeding enrollment targets. In addition, the bill includes a focus on primary care and prevention, extending federal support for a boost in Medicaid payments for primary care services and strengthening preventive benefits.
Extending CHIP funding through 2019 is critical because of the benefit and cost sharing protections the program offers for children. A recent examination of CHIP benefits commissioned by First Focus found that CHIP provides robust coverage of child-specific services and critical cost sharing protections.