- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2017

Colorado officials sent out letters Monday urging families who rely on the Children’s Health Insurance Program to research other coverage options in case Congress fails to renew federal funding for the program by Jan. 31, when the state will run out of money to cover children.

The state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing said members can continue to use their benefits as usual but should be prepared for the worst.

Congress allowed the program, known as “CHIP,” to lapse Sept. 30, leaving states to calculate when they’ll run out of existing funds and no longer be able to support beneficiaries.

About 75,000 children and 800 pregnant women are enrolled in Colorado’s version of the program known as Children’s Health Plan Plus, or “CHP+.”

“It is critically important for families to start planning for potential changes in their health coverage if the federal government doesn’t renew funding for the CHP+ program,” Medicaid Director Gretchen Hammer said. “We remain cautiously optimistic Congress will renew federal funding, but we want our families enrolled in CHP+ to be aware that changes may be coming and not be caught off guard should the program come to an end.”

Nationwide, CHIP insures roughly 9 million children whose parents earn too much money for Medicaid coverage but still struggle to afford insurance.

Earlier this month, the House GOP muscled a five-year reauthorization bill to passage, 242-174, alongside just 15 Democrats.

The bill took modest whacks at Obamacare by siphoning dollars from the 2010 law to pay for CHIP.

Republicans said the spending offsets were mild and shouldn’t be controversial, though swipes at Obamacare dampened the bill’s prospects in the Senate, where Democrats wield a filibuster.

Congress may ultimately reauthorize the program as part of a year-end spending deal, but states are taking precautions.

Colorado officials said that loss of CHIP coverage would qualify as a life event that lets them seek out coverage on the state Obamacare exchange outside of the normal signup period.

“It’s frustrating that our CHP+ families are facing this uncertainty, especially during the holidays,” said Tom Massey, interim executive director of Colorado’s health-financing agency. “We are hopeful the federal government will act quickly to renew funding and alleviate further worry by Colorado families who rely on this important program.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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