Colorado Is the 1st State to Warn Residents of CHIP’s Uncertain Future

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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The state only has enough money to keep the program operational until Jan. 31.

Colorado has become the first state to send a letter alerting residents that its Children's Health Insurance Program is at risk of being shut down if Congress does not act soon. The program’s authorization expired nationwide on Sept. 30.

In a statement, state officials warned that Colorado only has enough money left to operate its program, called the Child Health Plan Plus, or CHP+, which covers as many as 75,671 kids and expectant mothers until Jan. 31 of next year. According to the release, there are no immediate changes to the program’s eligibility, enrollment, renewals or benefits and the intention of the letter is to “urge CHP+ members to be prepared in the event the federal government fails to reinstate funding.

Colorado isn’t the only state facing difficult choices. Virginia officials have acknowledged that they have drafted a shutdown letter of their own which they plan to send out around Dec. 1. And in Minnesota, officials have decided to make up for a shortage in federal funds by using state monies to shore up the program.

Minnesota was one of 14 states and territories to receive reallocated leftover funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Between October and November, CMS gave Minnesota an additional $4,661,379, but according to reporting by The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline, those funds ran out this month. The state’s Department of Human Services has not made public just how much of the state’s own resources it has spent on keeping CHIP afloat.

At the federal level, there has been virtually no movement on CHIP reauthorization since the House passed its CHIP funding bill on November 3. That bill would pay for CHIP renewal in part by cutting the budget of a key public health fund by 75 percent, a feature that Democrats in the Senate—and local health officials—have deemed unacceptable. A Senate bill to re-up CHIP passed through committee in early October, but that body has not yet sent the bill to the floor for a vote, nor have they come up with a way to pay for the program.

Quinn Libson is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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