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Children’s Health Program in Jeopardy

Funding for a federally administered health insurance program for children could end next year and jeopardize about 8 million youngsters who depend upon it to visit their doctors, emergency rooms and other medical facilities.

“As states are adjusting to a variety of health system changes, it is essential that Congress secure the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s future so that states can operate their programs without interruption,” Bruce Lesley, president of the Northwest-based national bipartisan children’s advocacy organization First Focus, wrote in a letter dated March 13 to lawmakers and co-signed by more than 400 local, state and national organizations.

While about 8 million are enrolled nationwide in the program – known as CHIP – more than 81,000 D.C. residents rely on the insurance.

CHIP provides health coverage to children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but who cannot afford private coverage.

The program, which started in 1997, provides federal matching funds to states for the coverage and federal spending climbed to $13 billion in 2013, approximately 8 percent more than the previous year.

“If the CHIP funding cliff is not addressed, important gains in children’s coverage would be lost,” Lesley said.

“While the Affordable Care Act holds great promise for the millions of Americans who have lacked an affordable coverage option, especially uninsured adults, it will take time and experience to know how new coverage options, eligibility rules, enrollment systems, policies and procedures, benefits, plans and provider networks are working to meet the unique health and developmental needs of children,” he said.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 extends CHIP funding through Oct. 1, 2015 and it provides an additional $40 million in federal funding to continue efforts to promote enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP.

However, some lawmakers and others have questioned the need to continue the program because of the coverage available under the ACA.

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