The Honorable [insert name of Kentucky House or Kentucky Senate member],
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was passed by Congress in 1997 with solid, bipartisan support. CHIP fills a significant gap in health coverage for uninsured working families. These families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford the premiums and out-of-pocket costs associated with private health insurance. For 8 million children and 370,000 pregnant women, CHIP is a lifeline by connecting them with affordable, age-appropriate medical and dental care.
Yet there is good news and bad news. The good news is that the percentage of children lacking medical and dental insurance has never been lower. The bad news? The percentage of uninsured kids could rise unless Congress extends federal funding for CHIP. Federal funding for CHIP expires after September 30, 2015. Without federal action in the next few months, state CHIP programs will need to start changing eligibility rules, and this will leave many children without coverage.
In Kentucky, 84,069 children count on CHIP for their medical and dental coverage. Many of these families have no “Plan B” if they suddenly lose their CHIP coverage.
Without CHIP, millions of children could lose health coverage. Today, CHIP provides affordable, comprehensive health coverage to millions of children and pregnant women from working families. If funding for the program runs out, children will be moved into marketplace coverage and could end up without dental coverage—or have to buy dental coverage that is much more expensive than under CHIP. A recent report by Wakely Consulting Group estimated that families’ cost-sharing could increase by up to 10 times what they pay out-of-pocket under CHIP. In addition, nearly 2 million of today’s CHIP-covered children would be ineligible for subsidized coverage on the marketplaces as a result of the so-called “family glitch.”
Extending CHIP is a sound budgetary decision. According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), much of the cost of a CHIP extension would be offset by reductions in other federal spending. Further, according to a recent report by MACPAC—an independent commission advising Congress—the federal portion of CHIP funding for two more years would be offset by reductions in federal spending for Medicaid and subsidized marketplace coverage because children would not enroll in those programs if CHIP is available.
Congress needs to extend funding now. Unless Congress acts soon, there will be no new funding for CHIP after September 30, 2015. State legislatures, governors, and state agencies are already making decisions about transitioning families out of CHIP coverage. Any disruption to CHIP—even temporary— will hurt millions of families who rely on this coverage, increasing the number of uninsured children. Congress must act now to extend CHIP funding through 2019. This extension will give children uninterrupted, affordable coverage while new options are created in the marketplace.
Dental benefits are especially vulnerable if CHIP ends. Moving families into the state marketplaces could create significant problems because families seeking dental coverage there could be subject to additional premiums and cost-sharing in order to make sure their children have comprehensive dental benefits. And unlike CHIP, in most state marketplaces, there is no guarantee that children will receive dental coverage when they purchase a health plan.
Support for CHIP was bipartisan when the program was created, and it remains bipartisan today. In fact, nearly 40 governors—both Republicans and Democrats—have signed letters asking for Congress to extend CHIP’s funding.
For all of these reasons, we urge your support for extending federal funding of the CHIP program through 2019.