Colorado's CHP+ program has funding through January, but state says Congress needs to act quickly

Program covers children, pregnant women

DENVER – Colorado officials say the health insurance program for children and pregnant women has enough federal money left over to remain operational through the first month of the year, but warn the money could be gone after that if Congress does not act to restore funding in the next couple months.

Funding for the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) ran out Saturday when Congress failed to act to restore funding for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing said Monday it anticipates the federal funding Colorado had collected before Sunday will fund the state’s program through Jan. 31 of next year.

But people who use the state’s program, called the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), will be able to apply for and use their benefits as normal through the beginning of the year.

“We are disappointed Congress did not act by the Sept. 30 deadline to continue federal funding for CHIP. Colorado CHP+ members need to know they still have coverage until the federal funds run out at the end of January,” said Department of Health Care Policy and Financing Executive Director Susan E. Birch. "We are and will continue to work closely with Connect for Health Colorado in case Congress does not act in the next four months, as some of the individuals currently covered by CHP+ could qualify for financial assistance to purchase a health plan offered by the marketplace.”

Birch pushed people signing up for CHP+ or already on it to sign up for electronic notices through their PEAK accounts to stay updated.

In Colorado, lower-income children and pregnant women are covered through Medicaid, while those with higher incomes are covered through CHP+. Pregnant women and children in families of four earning up to $5,350 a month qualify for CHP+ coverage in Colorado.

According to Colorado statistics from May, approximately 138,000 children were covered by one of the programs—about 69,000 each. Those numbers were expected to grow by about 7,000 by the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Approximately 2,600 pregnant women are receiving prenatal care via either CHP+ or Medicaid, according to the state. CHIP is funded 88 percent by federal funds, which cover both CHP+ and Medicaid recipients.

According to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, once the federal funding runs out through CHIP for Colorado, the nearly 70,000 people in Colorado whose coverage is funded through CHIP would retain coverage through Medicaid, but would see reduced funding in the federal match.

The state would have to cover the remaining funding, which it says would “further strain” the state budget.

Colorado’s Democrats in Washington were quick to lament Congress’ failure to get CHIP funding put in the budget before Saturday’s deadline over the weekend.

“Unacceptable that funding for CHIP & community health centers expired last night. We can’t leave Coloradans in limbo,” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., tweeted Sunday.

“90,000 CO children & pregnant women count on #CHIP. Funds have lapsed due to congressional issues that must be fixed soon. Unconscionable,” tweeted Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

“Congress did not address CHIP or [community] health centers this week. We need to reauthorize these critical programs asap,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo.

As Perlmutter and Bennet noted, it also did not restore funding for next year for community health centers, which help millions of people across the country each year.

Congress can act at any time to put funding into the programs, and a House committee has a bill hearing scheduled for next week.

The Senate also has a bill making its way through the process that would restore CHIP funding.

A separate analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows Colorado would exhaust its federal funding in February of next year if Congress doesn’t act. It estimated around 86,000 were covered by CHP+ under the normal program or the expanded Medicaid program.

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