October 10, 2017

Children's health programs in Florida running out of time and money [The News-Press]

Frank Gluck of The News-Press writes:

“A program that provides health coverage to an estimated 341,000 low-income Florida children has lost its federal funding and could soon run out of money.

The Republican-led Congress missed a Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize the 20-year-old Children’s Health Insurance Program and has, so far, failed to reach agreement on how to do so going forward.

Florida received nearly 96 percent of the $686 million budgeted last year for CHIP from the federal government and has $359 million remaining, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

That’s likely enough to continue the program just into 2018, according to estimates from the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. AHCA officials predict the state has enough funds to run CHIP programs through January.

‘AHCA is doing everything in our power to ensure that no child in this program loses coverage while the federal government debates this issue,’ said agency spokeswoman Mallory McManus in an email. ‘We also understand that Congress continues to work on this issue, and we are monitoring closely and awaiting their actions on this matter.’

Roughly 9 million U.S. children are enrolled in CHIP. Florida’s program is the fourth largest in the nation.

The program provides subsidized health care for children in families with incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid but are under 200 percent of the poverty level — or $40,840 for a family of three.

It does so generally under three ‘KidCare’ programs: MediKids, which serves children ages 1 to 4; Healthy Kids, which serves children ages 5 to 18; and the Children’s Medical Services Managed Care Plan, which serves children ages 1 through 18 with special health needs.

Advocates for the program say they believe Congress will eventually renew funding for the program.

‘I’m cautiously optimistic. There’s a lot of bipartisan support for the program,’ said Anne Swerlick, an attorney and health care analyst with the non-partisan Florida Policy Institute [emphasis added]. ‘The dangers are in trying to usher this through Congress there may be efforts to dump other, more controversial, sorts of health care proposals on the bill, which will get it bogged down.’

President Bill Clinton signed CHIP into law in 1997. The program had been championed by then-first lady Hillary Clinton and won the bipartisan backing of Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts.


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