Spending Bill Would Throw Lifeline to Children’s Health Plans

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By Alex Ruoff

A few states expected to run out of funds for their children’s health insurance programs soon would get temporary relief under the short-term government spending bill expected to pass this week.

Lawmakers need to make a technical change to ensure states can access reserve funds to keep their CHIP programs running until a long-term funding approval is passed, a Republican staffer told Bloomberg Law Dec. 4. Currently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is restricted in how it gives out redistribution funds, the staffer said.

Arizona and Minnesota are expected to run out of funds in December because Congress hasn’t passed a funding renewal for the program since it expired Oct. 31, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. Children’s health advocates are supportive of the change but are pushing lawmakers to pass a long-term approval.

“We appreciate Congress is doing this technical tweak, but we need to get the reauthorization done,” Jim Kaufman, vice president of public policy for the Children’s Hospital Association, told Bloomberg Law.

The change is part of a two-week spending bill meant to keep the government running beyond Dec. 8, when the previous spending bill will expire. Lawmakers have promised to extend funding for CHIP for five years before the end of the calendar year, Kaufman said.

The Senate is expected to take up the House short-term spending bill, according to a Senate staffer.

Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Ohio, and Oregon are all expected to run out CHIP funds by 2018, according to a report from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

States that run out of CHIP funds can make use of a $3 billion pool of reserve money administered by the CMS. The District of Columbia and 15 states have received a total of $1.2 billion from the pool to keep their programs going, according to the CMS.

States can use their annual CHIP allotments for two years, and unspent money can be redistributed to states with a shortfall.

The spending measure would provide “emergency shortfall states” that run out of money, including the redistributed funds already provided, in the first quarter of fiscal 2018 with the full funding needed, and would allow them to receive money before other shortfall states, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis.

The measure also would allow “qualifying states”—those that expanded Medicaid to cover CHIP-eligible children before CHIP was enacted—to receive redistributed funds. Authority for the qualifying state option expired Sept. 30.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brian Broderick at bbroderick@bloomberglaw.com

For More Information

The short-term spending bill is at http://src.bna.com/uFY.

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