CHIP delay could impact Kansas students

Congressional delay in reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could result in thousands of Kansas children losing health insurance coverage, which could in turn affect their education. 

Congress created CHIP in 1997. The program offers health insurance to children whose families earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but who can’t afford private coverage. Congress reauthorized CHIP in 2015, but funding ran out Sept. 30. 

In federal Fiscal Year 2017, 38,000 Kansas children were enrolled in CHIP. CHIP allows states to create their own health insurance programs as a CHIP-funded expansion of Medicaid, as a separate program, or as a combination of the two. State officials declined to participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so Kansas is known as a “separate CHIP” state. The Kansas Healthwave program is part of CHIP. 

A U.S. Senate proposal to extend CHIP authorization for five years — and ensure a federal matching fund rate of 92 percent of state costs — has stalled, raising the possibility that Kansas will run out of federal CHIP funding early in 2018. Because the state and the federal government share the costs of administering the CHIP program, loss of federal dollars could result in increased costs to the state or even the termination of the program in Kansas. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government’s CHIP match rate was increased by 23 percent for the federal fiscal years 2016-2019. In FY 2017, the federal share covered 92 percent ($105 million) of total Kansas CHIP costs of $114 million, leaving the state share at roughly $8.9 million. The state Legislature assumed the enhanced marching rate would continue and adopted its budget accordingly.  

According to a Kansas Health Institute analysis, Kansas has three options if CHIP isn’t reauthorized quickly: 

  1. Wait until funds expire, which the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) estimates would be the end of March, 2018 for Kansas. 
  1. Terminate CHIP and switch children to other coverage options on the health insurance marketplace, requiring their parents to apply for that coverage. Some families would not qualify for subsidies; in other cases, families who qualify for subsidies might decide the higher marketplace costs are still too expensive, prompting them to drop coverage. 
  1. Impose enrollment caps as allowed under federal law for “separate CHIP” states. 

KASB does not have specific federal policy regarding CHIP or Medicaid; however, Kansas students’ overall health directly affects their ability to come to school ready to learn. KASB’s Legislative Committee is slated to discuss a possible one-year federal resolution that could include references to health insurance for children; the organization’s Delegate Assembly will finalize policy language on Dec. 3 at the Annual Convention in Wichita. 

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