As leading national, state, tribal, and local organizations concerned about the health and well-being of America’s children and pregnant women, we are writing to urge you to take action as soon as possible to provide a four-year funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Congress must act quickly to stabilize the CHIP funding stream to ensure that states can continue to operate their programs without interruption. Health coverage for millions of children could be disrupted if CHIP’s future is not secured.
For nearly two decades, CHIP has been an essential source of coverage for families, ensuring access to high-quality, affordable, pediatric-appropriate health care for children in working families whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to purchase private health insurance. It is a model program that has played a critical role in reducing the number of uninsured children by more than 50 percent while improving health outcomes and access to care for children and pregnant women across the nation. If Congress fails to act now, the 10.2 million children estimated to be enrolled in CHIP in FY 2015 will be at risk of having their health coverage disrupted. It is worth noting that millions of the children who stand to lose CHIP would have no other coverage option available to them. The resulting increase in the rate of uninsurance would be an enormous step backwards for children.
CHIP has strong bipartisan roots and was developed as a state-federal partnership that gives governors broad flexibility to design their programs to target the needs of their 2 child populations. CHIP’s uncertain future is a significant problem for states as they are already developing their FY 2016 budgets and negotiating contracts with insurers and providers. In order for states to continue their programs without interruption, they must know that that federal support for CHIP will exist beyond FY 2015. If funding is not stabilized, states will have no choice but to begin planning for the impending funding shortfall, which will require drastic program cuts through enrollment caps, benefit reductions, reductions in eligibility, or provider payment cuts. At a time when children’s coverage rates have hit record highs – with 93 percent of our children enrolled in some type of health coverage – it would be devastating for children if states prepare to dismantle their CHIP programs.
Congress must not gamble with our children’s future. Action on CHIP is needed as soon as possible. We urge you to provide four years of continued funding to secure CHIP’s future through its authorization period so that families and states alike can be assured their children’s coverage will be protected.