In September, we sounded the alarm that federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was about to expire. Now, more than two months later, there still has been no action from Congress. This ongoing delay in funding is putting thousands of Florida families at risk and on edge.
CHIP provides health insurance for nearly 9 million kids nationwide, including more than 340,000 in Florida’s KidCare program. These children are enrolled in Florida Healthy Kids, serving children ages 5 to 18; MediKids, serving children ages 1 to 4; and Children’s Medical Services, serving children ages 1 through 18 with special health care needs.
Florida received nearly 96 percent of the $686 million appropriated last year for CHIP from the federal government. With no new federal dollars, Florida is projected to have enough money to fund the program through January. If federal funding does not come through by then, the state will be forced to cut coverage for kids. Deliberations regarding state funding for 2017-18 had no reason to anticipate the loss of federal funds.
Florida has cut its rate of uninsured children by more than half since 2009. The rate dropped from 14.8 percent to 6.2 percent in 2016, which resulted in a decrease from 601,000 uninsured kids to 257,000. The decrease is largely attributable to the increased availability of public health insurance like KidCare.
We know from past experience, however, that program uncertainty leads to the “CHIP dip.” Families lose trust in the program, which depresses enrollment and leads to more uninsured children.
Congress is close to getting CHIP done. There is agreement on the policy and the program has the same bipartisan support today as it did when it was created. But our leaders keep kicking the can down the road, prioritizing things like tax cuts for the wealthy over health coverage for kids. Families are starting to worry about the availability of their children’s health coverage when the children get sick or need a check-up.
We need congressional leaders to work on a bipartisan basis to get CHIP funded now and ensure that Florida’s children maintain the health coverage they need. Let’s get CHIP done: Florida kids and families can’t afford to wait.