Last month, Congress let the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expire, and they have yet to allocate any funds to save it. The program, which was instituted by the Clinton administration and passed with broad, bipartisan support in 1997, has subsequently dropped the uninsured rate for children and non-elderly adults dramatically. In conjunction with the gains made under the Affordable Care Act, in 2016 the percentage of children insured in the U.S. reached 95.5%, an historic high.
The coverage gains were so significant under CHIP because it provides insurance for individuals who earn too much money to be eligible for Medicaid, but not nearly enough to afford private coverage. The program has largely maintained its bi-partisan support, and was on its way to reenactment until the GOP’s last Obamacare repeal effort, Graham-Cassidy pulled in all healthcare-related legislation in its collapse.
With things as contentious as they are at the moment, congress hasn’t be able to agree on how to fund the program—though there is motivation on both sides. The GOP, as the Chicago Tribune reported, wants to take money from an Obama-era public health fund, and raise Medicare premiums to pay for CHIP, while the Democrats want to don’t want either program weakened.
As each week passes, the situation grows more troubling. As the Washington Post noted, many states only have enough funds to run CHIP through the end of the year, and most other states will only be able to keep the program going through March. Nine million children are covered under CHIP, and in six months they could all be uninsured.
While a complete failure to save the program is highly unlikely, it is not impossible. Right now there are millions of families around the U.S. sitting in limbo wondering if they will have health insurance next year.