WV kids covered by CHIP won’t immediately lose coverage


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The about 38,000 children in West Virginia who rely on the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program for coverage aren’t in danger of immediately losing their insurance, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Congress failed to reauthorize the 20-year-old program by the deadline Saturday. CHIP is 100-percent federally funded in West Virginia.

Allison Adler, a DHHR spokeswoman, said West Virginia officials estimate that the program will not run out of funds until early 2018. She said, in an email, that “children in our state will not suddenly lose their CHIP coverage.”
The state received $61 million in federal funds for the program in federal fiscal year 2017, she said. She said the state typically spends about $50 million per year, but could not provide the exact amount left over from 2017 because of unprocessed claims.

“CHIP is examining strategies to extend funding as long as possible until Congress takes action,” she said. “If Congress does not reauthorize CHIP funding prior to the program running out of resources, families and the public will be notified prior to any changes in enrollment that must be made.”

Children who aren’t covered by Medicaid but whose parents make less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for CHIP in West Virginia. About 21,000 children are covered by CHIP, Adler said this week. An additional 17,000 are covered by Medicaid plans that rely on CHIP money.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., sent out a statement this week which said she supports “ongoing efforts to reauthorize [CHIP].” She said, “Dating back to my time in the West Virginia State Legislature, I have championed this important program and support ongoing efforts to reauthorize it.

“The legislation to reauthorize CHIP that is advancing in the Senate has strong, bipartisan support,” she said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said, in a statement, that “to let this funding expire is nothing short of negligent.”

“The least we can do is put partisanship aside to protect our children, the most vulnerable among us,” he said. “In the coming days, I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure no child in West Virginia loses access to health care.”

West Virginia is one of 12 states with a 100-percent federally funded CHIP program, a result of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA, also known as Obamacare, raised the federal matching rate by 23 percent until 2019.

Senate Finance Committee leaders announced last month that they had designed a CHIP reauthorization bill that would begin to decrease the federal match rate in 2020. Adler said that plan “would create a significant budgetary issue for the state.” Jessica Holstein, another DHHR spokeswoman, previously has said a reduced match rate “may put the program in jeopardy.”

West Virginia state law says CHIP terminates on “the effective date of any reduction in annual federal funding levels below the amounts allocated and/or projected in Title XXI of the Social Security Act of 1997.” That legislation was amended in 1997 to create CHIP. Adler said an attorney for West Virginia CHIP reviewed relevant federal and state law and “believes that sufficient authority exists to continue to spend ‘carryover’ money.”

“The DHHR and CHIP remain hopeful that Congress will act expeditiously to pass the reauthorization bill in the near future,” she said.

All states are expected to exhaust their CHIP funding by the end of federal fiscal year 2018, if funding is not extended, according to a July report from MACPAC, an independent federal agency that advises Congress on Medicaid and CHIP policy. Most are expected to run out of funding by March.

Nearly 9 million children are covered nationwide. The federal government spent about $9.7 billion on the program in fiscal year 2015, according to MACPAC. States spent $4 billion.

 Reach Erin Beck at [email protected], 304-348-5163, Facebook.com/erinbeckwv or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.

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