DENVER – Both of Colorado’s U.S. senators are cosponsoring a bill that would extend federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2022 and make some changes that give states more flexibility in working with the program.
The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing said Monday it anticipates Colorado will run out of its federal funding left over from the past fiscal year for CHP+, the state CHIP program, by January if Congress doesn’t move to extend the funding.
Almost 90 percent of the state’s CHP+ money comes through federal funding through CHIP, something Congress failed to fund by last Saturday’s budget deadline for the new fiscal year.
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.
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.
But the legislation cosponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) of Colorado would extend that federal funding through 2022 and allay concerns for thousands of families.
The senators say the bill, called the Keepings Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act, would also give states more flexibility under a maintenance-of-effort provision.
Under the legislation, the federal funding match rate would stay at current levels through the next fiscal year, would change to 11.5 percent in FY2020, and then switch back to traditional matching rates for 2011 and 2012.
“I’m urging my Senate colleagues to move quickly on this bipartisan issue,” Sen. Gardner said in a written statement. “Sen. Bennet and I have been very vocal about the need to address this, and it appears there’s a path forward to creating long-term certainty for a program that roughly 90,000 Colorado children and pregnant mothers utilize.”
“CHIP is too essential to too many families for us to delay any further,” Bennet said. “This bill would extend CHIP funding for the next five years, ensuring Colorado’s children and expecting mothers who depend on the program retain access to care. We urge our colleagues to support this legislation and see that it passes for the sake of families across the country.”
The senators’ action comes on the heels of a Monday plea from the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing Executive Director Susan E. Birch, who called for Congress to act quickly to restore the CHIP funding.
“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 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.”