Gov. John Hickenlooper has joined a bipartisan group of 12 governors calling on Congress to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which is set to expire Jan. 31.
About 75,000 children and nearly 800 pregnant women in Colorado stand to lose health care coverage if the program is not renewed, Hickenlooper’s office says, and the Colorado Department of Health has already sent out letters urging those who rely on the coverage to start looking for alternative health care plans.
In Montezuma County, 570 children are enrolled in the program; and in La Plata County, 950.
Colorado will run out of funding for the program in January or February, according to Governing.com, and most states cannot fund the program past March.
U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner, a Republican, and Michael Bennet, a Democrat, of Colorado have partnered to support the program in Congress.
“I’ve co-sponsored legislation to reauthorize CHIP funding through 2022, and I’m urging my Senate colleagues to move quickly on this bipartisan issue,” Gardner told Colorado Politics last week. “Sen. Bennet and I have been very vocal about the need to address this, and it appears there’s a path forward to creating long-term certainty for (the) program.”
Gardner and Bennet co-sponsored the Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure Act in October, which would transition CHIP to a federal-state partnership and provide additional protections for low-income children.
“CHIP is too essential to too many families for us to delay any further,” Bennet has previously said.
“This bill would extend CHIP funding for the next five years, ensuring Colorado’s children and expecting mothers who depend on the program retain access to care. We urge our colleagues to support this legislation and see that it passes for the sake of families across the country.”
Colorado’s Child Health Plan Plus, which is paid for through state and federal funding, is low-cost public health insurance for children and pregnant women who earn too much to qualify for Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program), but not enough to pay for private health insurance.
Hickenlooper signed onto a letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, asking them to make reauthorization a priority.
“We believe covering children and pregnant women without disruption is one thing we can all agree on,” the letter reads.
“For 20 years, this program has successfully provided vital health coverage and care to about nine million children. Without it, access to essential health services like well child exams, asthma medicine and hospitalizations will be at risk. As health insurance premiums climb at unsustainable rates, this program gives hard-working families access to otherwise unaffordable coverage.
“In the absence of Congressional action, we have worked to protect coverage for children and pregnant women in each of our states, but we will need federal support to continue the program. Resources are nearly exhausted and some states already have begun to inform families that their children’s coverage may end on Jan. 31.
“Since its creation, CHIP has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. We encourage you to work across the aisle to find common ground that will allow this important program to continue and give the families who rely on CHIP the peace of mind of knowing that their children will be able to get the health care they need in the new year.”
Other governors who signed the letter include: John Kasich of Ohio, Bill Walker of Alaska, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Terence McAuliffe of Virginia, Steve Bullock of Montana, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, Christopher Sununu of New Hampshire, Charles Baker of Massachusetts, Phil Scott of Vermont and Mark Dayton of Minnesota.
Following initial passage of the GOP tax bill, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, lead author of the GOP tax plan, said the federal government no longer has the money to fund CHIP.
“The reason CHIP is having trouble (passing) is because we don’t have money anymore,” Hatch told reporters in Washington, D.C. “We just add more and more spending and more and more spending, and you can look at the rest of the bill for the more and more spending.”
Hatch remains confident CHIP will be spared, but further inaction by Congress has many of his colleagues concerned.
“We’re going to do CHIP, there’s no question about it in my mind,” Hatch said. “It has to be done the right way.”