Recently hundreds of Colorado families received letters in the mail warning them that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) may be running out in January and without funding the state will not be able to support the program. Gretchen Hammer, who runs Colorado’s CHIP program, helped to explain what this means for Colorado families who participate in the program or those who are curious about CHIP.
CHIP is a government assistance program that helps pay for the healthcare for thousands of American children, including families in the Centennial state. The program mostly covers middle and working-class families whose income is too high for other federal assistance programs like Medicaid but is too low to easily pay for healthcare expenses. There are approximately 75,000 families on Colorado’s CHIP program.
Most states with CHIP rely heavily on federal funding to back their program, but the U.S. Congress recently finished the new fiscal budget and tax code without room for CHIP funding – allowing it to expire in 2017 and 2018. Many states had been scrambling for temporary solutions but will be unable to continue their programs. In Colorado, 88% of funding came from the federal level with the state making up the remaining 12% of funding through a variety of state and local programs. The funding for Colorado expired on September 30, 2017. States can spend their current CHIP funding dollars through January 31 of 2018. With no signs of future funding, Colorado was forced to send letters to CHIP families warning them of the program’s likely end.
Some families may be able to put their children on employee-sponsored health coverage, but most families will be unable to continue their child’s healthcare programs. There are alternatives on the table, and many hope Congress will reverse their decision, but a world without CHIP leaves many families wondering what to do next. The letters sent to Colorado families recommends they start looking for alternative health insurance for their families right away, and should look to Colorado’s health exchange, known as Connect for Health, to find affordable options during the 2018 open enrollment period.