A Holiday Lump of Coal: CHIP Families Could Receive Termination Notices This Month

Families enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could receive letters later this month stating that their coverage will end in January unless the federal government acts swiftly to restore federal funding for the program.

Federal lawmakers allowed funding for CHIP, which provides health coverage for almost 400,000 low-income Texas children, to expire Sept. 30 despite strong bipartisan support.

Texas has sufficient funds to continue coverage through January 2018. But it must receive official approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to continue to use its allotment.  

State officials have asked CMS to allow Texas to retain $90 million of its $190 million CHIP balance to maintain coverage through Jan. 31. CMS is expected to approve the request, but that might not happen before the state is legally obligated to notify families that their CHIP coverage will end. By law, Texas must give notification at least 30 days in advance. 

Furthermore, even with the CMS approval, coverage will expire by Feb. 1, 2018, unless Congress renews funding. While TMA and state officials are cautiously optimistic lawmakers will do the right thing, Congress is not expected to take up the budget until the end of December — several weeks after Texas’ notices must be sent.

Unless federal or Texas lawmakers provide funds in the interim, state officials on Dec. 14 will begin notifying families who apply for coverage that their eligibility will last only one month. Letters informing currently enrolled families that their coverage will end in January will be sent Dec. 22.  

TMA and other state medical societies in October sent letters to the majority and minority leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives exhorting them to support legislation that would extend funding for CHIP. Gov. Greg Abbott and members of Texas’ congressional delegation, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, continue to support funding reauthorization.

Action, Dec. 1, 2017

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