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Federal funding for children's insurance could last through July in Michigan
Michigan can also use CHIP funds to remove lead hazards from the homes of low-income residents after a waiver was granted by the federal government in the wake of the Flint water crisis, as well as provide health insurance for an expanded pool of people ...
By Lauren Gibbons
Congress hasn't yet reached a consensus on continuing federal funding that pays for the health insurance of millions of children nationwide, but Michigan is in a somewhat better position to handle a delay than many states throughout the nation.
The Children's Health Insurance Program, created in 1997, provides health coverage for nearly 9 million children nationally, and about 116,000 children in MichiganCongress let federal funding for CHIP expire in 2017, but provided $2.85 billion in funding in December as part of a short-term spending bill that expires Jan 19.
A recent report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families estimates 24 states, including Washington, D.C., could face funding shortfalls as soon as February.
Initial estimates put Michigan's existing CHIP funding lasting through April or May without additional action by Congress, raising the specter of cancellation notices as early as January to meet notification requirements.
With the extension passed at the end of December, however, Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services might now last through July, department spokesperson Angela Minicuci saidThat means notices and potential conversations with state lawmakers will be pushed back "until we're closer to July and if CHIP is still not reauthorized," she said.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that funding CHIP would likely be significantly cheaper than initial estimates suggested and could actually save the government money long-term, assuming children currently on CHIP health plans would transition to Obamacare marketplaces if they lose their existing coverage.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Michigan have stressed support for the plan in recent monthsIn Michigan, CHIP supports programs such as MiChild, which provides health and dental coverage to children whose families make more than double the federal poverty level.
Michigan can also use CHIP funds to remove lead hazards from the homes of low-income residents after a waiver was granted by the federal government in the wake of the Flint water crisis, as well as provide health insurance for an expanded pool of people younger than 21 and pregnant women who were living in Flint after the water switch in 2014.
The Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee recently sent a letter to Michigan's Congressional delegation urging speedy support of CHIP funding.
Republicans in the House passed legislation to reauthorize the program for five years, but many Democrats voted against it due to objections with ways to offset CHIP costs, including bumping up premiums for wealthier Medicare beneficiaries and shortening the grace period for Obamacare enrollees not making premium payments.
Republican RepTim Walberg, R-Tipton, supported the legisation and called it an important bill for the health and well being of children and families in Michigan when it passed the House in November 2017.
"These public health programs are vital to helping the most vulnerable among us," Walberg said"Thousands of low-income children and pregnant mothers rely on Michigan's CHIP program, and many more families turn to a community health center in our state for their health care needs."
RepFred Upton, R-StJoseph, said in October failure to pass a prompt extension of CHIP "would be disastrous for our communities."
"This legislation is good for Michigan children and families and I will continue to work hard to get the job done for them," he said.
U.SRepDan Kildee, D-Flint Twp., said he's frustrated to see a bipartisan, popular plan that helps so many being used as a "pawn" in more divisive issues.
"It's a very effective program, and to have it used as a bargaining chip in other more partisan discussions is a really cynical use of health care for children," Kildee said in an interview with MLive.
Kildee said CHIP funds are "very critical to recovery efforts that are still ongoing in Flint."
In the Senate, Michigan U.SSensDebbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, have called for immediate passage of a bipartisan CHIP spending planStabenow introduced her own version of legislation to extend CHIP funding for five years, and has called the failure to meet the initial funding deadline "unacceptable."
"Because of this inaction, we could see cancellation notices going out to families, wait lists or enrollment changes, and - ultimately - kids could be unable to see their doctor," she said in a statement following initial CHIP expiration in 2017.
Peters said in a social media post this week that supporting CHIP funding "should be a no-brainer" and called for extending the program to keep millions of children on their health care plans.
Leadership in the Michigan House and Senate are monitoring the ongoing situation in CongressA spokesperson for House Speaker Tom Leonard said they're currently consulting with experts to see what the potential state impacts of a loss in CHIP funding would be.
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