Fast Fact – May 29, 2015

In Fiscal Year 2013-14, 9 percent of Colorado children ages birth through 18 (more than 116,000 kids) were covered by the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) at some point during the year, down from 11 percent the previous fiscal year. CHP+ provides health coverage for children in families with incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid but below 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($58,875 for a family of four in 2013). To find data on the percent of children covered by CHP+ in your county, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.


Big Wins for Kids Health in Congress

This week we celebrated Congress’s approval of HR2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which includes a number of important policy wins for kids health. Most notably, the measure extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years and maintains a number of important policy provisions for the program, including enhanced federal matching funds. Also included in the bill is a two-year funding extension for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program and funding for federally qualified health centers, safety net clinics that provide primary health care services to millions of American children and families. In a showing of strong bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate approved the measure 92-8 on Tuesday, following passage in the U.S. House on a vote of 392-37 in March. The measure now goes to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

We want to acknowledge and thank Colorado’s congressional delegation. Eight of Colorado’s nine members of Congress supported the measure. We particularly want to thank Sen. Michael Bennet for offering an amendment in the U.S. Senate, which would have extended funding for CHIP for four years, rather than two. While the amendment was not successful, Sen. Bennet once again demonstrated his strong support for health care for all children. With passage of this bill, we wrap up the CHIP Works Colorado campaign that we undertook in partnership with All Kids Covered. Kudos and thanks to the more than 40 organizations that participated in that effort and demonstrated strong support for health care for Colorado’s kids.

Extension of Children’s Health Insurance Program Passes House

Bipartisan legislation to extend federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, known as Child Health Plan Plus, or CHP+, in Colorado) passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday with a vote of 392-37. House Republicans and Democrats agreed on a deal that would extend CHIP funding as part of a health care package that would also permanently fix the Medicare provider reimbursement formula, known as the Sustainable Growth Rate, or SGR.

We are encouraged by this bipartisan effort in the House, which extends CHIP funding and current CHIP policy for two additional years, with no offsets from Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act to pay for the extension. The Senate will likely vote on the bill when they return from recess in mid-April. While there is some political uncertainty in the Senate, we are hopeful that Congress will act swiftly to extend this critical health coverage program for kids.

Federal funding for CHIP will expire in September if Congress does not act to extend it. At any given time, more than 55,000 Colorado children rely on CHP+ for their health coverage.  Passage of this bill by Congress would provide certainty to Colorado’s legislature, as it finalizes the state budget, that federal CHIP funding will be available for two additional years. It would also give peace of mind to thousands of families in Colorado that their children will continue to have access to the health coverage and care they need to stay healthy.

Stay tuned for additional updates on CHIP and visit CHIP Works Colorado on the All Kids Covered website to read stories about families and individuals in Colorado who rely on CHP+.


CHIP Momentum Building in Washington, D.C.

We have seen encouraging signs of progress at the federal level around extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, known as the Child Health Plan Plus, or CHP+, in Colorado). Federal funding for CHIP will expire in September 2015 if Congress does not act to extend it. President Obama’s proposed budget, released earlier this month, includes four more years of funding for CHIP. Legislation to extend CHIP has also been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate.  While these bills contain variations in other policy components of the program, both bills would extend funding for CHIP through 2019. CHIP KF 2.20.15

We are also excited to see bipartisan advocacy about the need for Congress to act quickly to extend CHIP funding. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Frist, former Republican senator from Tennessee, recently published an opinion piece in the New York Times urging Congress to take action to extend CHIP funding as soon as possible in order to give state legislatures time for planning and budgeting during their legislative sessions. A bi-partisan letter sent this week by the National Governors Association to the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce echoed this request and asked Congress to provide states certainty by extending CHIP, which is broadly supported by state governors.

We are hopeful that Congress will take action on CHIP as early as March. Stay tuned for additional updates and opportunities to take action on this critical issue for children’s health coverage. You can also visit CHIP Works Colorado on the All Kids Covered website to learn more and read stories about families and individuals in Colorado who rely on CHIP.



Child Advocates Weigh In On Future of Kids Coverage

This week the Children’s Campaign and more than a dozen other child health advocates submitted a letter to a Congressional advisory group on the future of children’s health coverage. The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) requested stakeholder comment on how well marketplace health plans address the needs of children in our state and the greatest areas of concern with transitions of kids from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to health plans available in the marketplace.

In the letter, advocates emphasized the importance of continued funding of CHIP for an additional four years to allow states to navigate the transition for children currently enrolled in CHIP plans to other high quality coverage options if CHIP is no longer available. Funding for CHIP will expire in September 2015 unless Congress acts to extend it. At any given time, more than 55,000 Colorado children rely on Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), Colorado’s CHIP plan, for their health coverage.

Studies have shown that in every state analyzed, including Colorado, state CHIP plans are more affordable than health plans offered through marketplaces. In addition, the benefit structure of CHIP plans are uniquely designed to serve children, particularly those with special healthcare needs. The adequacy and appropriateness of provider networks for children under marketplace plans also varies greatly.

For these reasons, advocates are concerned about continuity of high quality coverage for children in Colorado unless Congress takes action to extend CHIP funding. We look forward to working with state officials to ensure that all Colorado kids have quality, affordable coverage that is convenient and comfortable for families to access and use. Learn more about the importance of CHIP in Colorado and read stories of families benefitting from it.


CHIP Hearing in the U.S. House This Week

On Wednesday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health met to discuss future funding for the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP, known as the Child Health Plan Plus, or CHP+, in Colorado). Strong support for the program was expressed by both Democrat and Republican members of the committee. In addition to hearing expert witness testimony, the committee received a summary of formal responses to the bicameral, bipartisan request for information released to all governors this summer. Governors from 39 states expressed support for CHIP and urged Congress to extend the program.

We know CHIP provides critically important health coverage for thousands of Colorado children and their families, including the Eichhorns of Denver. Their son, Owen, looks like a perfectly typical kid. He’s a happy 9-year old boy who loves being active with his family. But what people can’t see are the daily physical, psychological and social challenges that require Owen to see therapeutic specialists more than 150 times a year. CHIP has provided affordable coverage so Owen’s family can meet his health care needs and also make ends meet. Read more about Owen and other Colorado families and health care providers that speak first-hand about the benefits of CHIP.

Want to get involved in the effort to secure continued federal funding for the CHIP program? Please contact Cody Belzley.


CHIP Works: Stories from Colorado

Thousands of Colorado families will be affected if Congress allows CHIP funding to expire in 2015. The All Kids Covered Coalition is collecting and sharing stories about families who rely on CHIP to help urge Congress to act soon. Read this inspiring story about an Aurora physician who draws a clear line between health insurance and healthy kids, then share your CHIP story with us. 

Dr. Christina Suh sees a lot of struggling families in her medical practice at the Child Health Clinic, a part of Children’s Hospital housed just across Colfax Avenue from the Anschutz Medical Center.

A majority of the families that come through her clinic’s doors are on Medicaid or are provided what family medicine calls “charity care.” But Suh thinks it’s the families that need a different program that might be some of the most vulnerable she sees.

Suh has seen the Child Health Insurance Program, CHIP or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) in Colorado, make a real difference for some of the 9,700 children her clinic sees each year. About 7 percent of the kids seen at the clinic use CHIP to access the ongoing health care they need. Families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but too little money to afford private insurance, can use the program to insure their children. Read more.

Support for Reauthorizing Federal CHIP Program Grows

More than 1,200 national, state, tribal and local organizations from all 50 states this week signed on to a joint letter urging Congress to reauthorize the Child Health Insurance Program. The letter, coordinated by our national partners, urges Congress to take action in the upcoming lame duck session to continue funding CHIP. The program is critical to the well-being of America’s children and pregnant women. Congress must act this year to stabilize the CHIP funding stream to ensure that states can continue to operate their programs without interruption. Health coverage for millions of children could be disrupted if CHIP’s future is not secured.

Currently, more than 55,000 Colorado women and children rely on CHIP, known in Colorado as the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), for their health coverage. We are hopeful that Congress will reinvest in CHIP well before the 2015 deadline, so states can budget accordingly.

The chorus calling for taking action on CHIP also includes editorial boards of some of the nation’s largest newspapers, including the New York Times and the LA Times.

Progress in Congress This Week on Critical Programs for Kids

We know that high quality, reliable child care and affordable health coverage are essential for kids to grow up healthy and strong, so we were encouraged by progress made by Congress this week to address both the Child Care and Development Block Grant and the Child Health Insurance Plan. On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary source of federal funding for child care.

The Senate passed a similar version of the reauthorization bill in March. CCDBG funds the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), which helps families in Colorado afford the high cost of child care. The CCDBG reauthorization bill focuses on improving the health and safety of children in child care and families’ access to quality child care.  Notably, the reauthorization bill also includes a $400 million increase in funding for child care assistance phased-in over the next 6 years. The Senate is expected to vote on the House version of the bill this week to allow Congress to reauthorize CCDBG before adjourning for October recess.  For a summary of the reauthorization bill, click here.

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care held the first hearing on extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, known as the Child Health Plan Plus, or CHP+, in Colorado). Funding for CHIP is set to expire on September 30, 2015. Both Democratic and Republican Senators at the hearing expressed concern about the future of states’ CHIP programs if funding is not extended. Participants in the hearing estimated that 2 million children could lose insurance coverage without CHIP because other coverage options through Medicaid or private insurance are not available to them. Currently, more than 55,000 Colorado women and children rely on CHP+ for their health coverage. We are hopeful that Congress will reinvest in CHIP well before the 2015 deadline, so states can budget accordingly. Stay tuned for further updates.

CHIP Update: New Study Shows CHIP Continues to Be Necessary; Bill to Extend Federal Funding Introduced in US House

A national analysis released this week confirms what we’ve long known: the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) offers affordable, quality coverage for America’s kids. The study also emphasizes that CHIP coverage continues to be relevant and necessary even in the context of health reform. The report, which was commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and conducted by the nationally recognized actuarial firm the Wakely Consulting Group, finds CHIP (known as the Child Health Plan Plus in Colorado) offers more comprehensive coverage at lower costs for children than qualified health plans sold through the exchange marketplaces. The analysis also compared child-specific services covered by CHP+ against coverage for the same services in marketplace plans. It found that while benefits are generally comparable, there can be significant differences in coverage and limits for specialty care. Read our op-ed on this issue in Health News Colorado to learn more about the study and the future of CHIP.

But unless Congress acts quickly, this success story could end next year and millions of children in the U.S. could lose this lifeline. The program runs out of funding in 2015 and states need adequate time to prepare to cover costs or cut services if CHIP isn’t renewed. This week, U.S. Reps. Pallone and Waxman introduced the Children’s Health Insurance Extension and Improvement Act of 2014 in the House of Representatives. This is a companion to legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this summer. Both measures proposed to extend funding for CHIP to 2019, aligning funding with the program’s authorization date.