Tuesday night, as part of a larger legislative package to reform Medicare provider payments, the Senate approved a two-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The House passed the bill earlier last month, which means it is on its way to the President’s desk to sign. CHIP, which was otherwise due to expire at the end of the federal fiscal year September, will now continue through September 2017.
As we have written previously, extending CHIP is of critical importance to the enrollment community. The program provides affordable coverage to 8 million children in working families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid. The extension is great news for at least four important reasons:
- It mitigates disruptive coverage transitions. Eight million children can keep their current coverage! If CHIP funding had not been extended, current enrollees would have had to transition to a new source of coverage, likely through the marketplace. (Plus, a quarter of these children might not have qualified for financial help due to the so-called “family glitch.”) As we’ve seen before with other transitions between coverage programs, some children would likely have fallen through the cracks.
- It ensures children retain low cost-sharing and benefits geared specifically towards their needs. CHIP offers many important financial protections, including low (if any) premiums and strong limits on out-of-pocket costs. In addition, CHIP coverage is specifically designed with children’s health care needs in mind. It typically covers services important for children’s development like screenings, dental, and vision services. While plans offered through the marketplace provide quality, comprehensive coverage, compared to CHIP, they would have cost families more and offered fewer child-specific benefits.
- It maintains an investment in critical on-the-ground partnerships to improve outreach and get more children covered. The legislation includes an additional $40 million for outreach and enrollment grants to state and local governments, tribal organizations, community groups, schools, health care providers, and other local organizations to help ensure eligible children enroll in Medicaid and CHIP and stay enrolled as long as they are eligible. Since 2009, $140 million has been awarded to state and local organizations as part of this effort. These grants will help ensure families have the information and in-person help they need to keep their kids covered.
- It extends the successful Express Lane Eligibility program. Since 2009, states have had the option to use Express Lane Eligibility to quickly and automatically determine children eligible for Medicaid or CHIP based on information they already have about these children through other programs (like SNAP and WIC). Since then, an independent analysis has found that hundreds of thousands of children have benefited from this simpler, easier way to enroll and renew coverage, and the program has generated millions in administrative savings for states. The CHIP extension legislation extends this program for an additional two years.
So, between getting up to speed on yesterday’s Navigator Funding Opportunity Announcement, helping consumers take advantage of the tax Special Enrollment Period, and checking out the newly posted list of workshops for the 2015 State of Enrollment conference, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating today’s important milestone in the effort to ensure Americans get — and keep — health coverage.