DHS’s Response to Congress Reiterates the Importance of CHIP Funding for Wisconsin’s Children
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), while authorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through federal fiscal year (FFY) 2019, created a funding cliff for states by only providing appropriations through FFY 2015. A letter made public last week, which was submitted to members of Congress by DHS Secretary Kitty Rhoades (on behalf of the Governor), explains why the extension of CHIP funding is extremely important for children in Wisconsin.
CHIP has garnered bipartisan support since its inception in 1997 and has been instrumental in lowering the uninsured rate of children in the U.S. Now, it’s up to members of Congress to continue working together to ensure that ongoing funding for the program is approved by September 2015.
At tail end of summer, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E and C) and the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to the nation’s governors requesting state-specific input on CHIP. Wisconsin, along with 38 other states, provided responses that overwhelmingly stress the importance the program plays in providing low-income children with access to affordable, quality health care. (The Wisconsin letter can be found here, on pages 45-46.)
Last week the House E and C subcommittee on Health held a hearing, “The Future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” and took testimony regarding key issues Congress should evaluate in its consideration of the future of CHIP. These issues included current program status as well as the role of the Affordable Care Act and its effect on the overall insurance market and CHIP.
Under the direction of Governor Walker, Secretary Rhoades submitted a letter in early September that outlined the importance of CHIP for Wisconsin’s low-income children as well as the health of the state budget. That letter identifies two key ways that CHIP reauthorization specifically benefits Wisconsinites.
1) Since April 1, 2014, all children in BadgerCare (Medicaid and CHIP) are covered under the BC+ Standard Plan. According to DHS, the standard plan includes more generous benefits and is more affordable in terms of cost-sharing requirements than the type of plans families could access for their children through the health insurance exchange or other commercial coverage.
2) Continued CHIP funding is important to the state’s fiscal stability. DHS points out that in FFY’14 the CHIP allotment for WI was more than $109 million—a hefty portion of the State’s health care coverage budget.
The DHS letter makes some excellent points supporting the continuation of CHIP funding through September 2019. To expand on that letter, here are a few other significant facts about the role of CHIP in our state:
1) In Wisconsin, children covered under the Standard Plan are eligible for HealthCheck, Wisconsin’s Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program. The Medicaid mandated EPSDT benefit offers children access to a comprehensive, developmentally appropriate range of services that promote positive health outcomes.
2) DHS has requested $760 million in increased state funds to continue the current Medicaid programs in the 2015-17 budget period, and that figure assumes CHIP will be reauthorized and fully funded. According to the DHS budget document, if Congress renews CHIP but does not fund the scheduled 23 percentage point increase in the CHIP match rate, that change alone would add an additional $85 million to the estimated deficit.
3) The CHIP program has been instrumental in providing access to health insurance for Wisconsin’s children. Based on DHS data from the Wisconsin Family Health Survey, it appears that the uninsured rate for Wisconsin children has dropped by more than half since the inception of CHIP in 1997.
You can read more about the harmful consequences of not extending CHIP in a recent article in Governing, which includes a brief explanation of why the “family glitch” (which relates to the ACA’s affordability test for employer coverage, and narrows eligibility for Marketplace premium tax credits) makes it extremely important for Congress to extend CHIP funding.
Sashi Gregory, WCCF Health Policy Analyst