Colorado has officially begun warning residents that the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is federally funded, will shut down early next year if Congress doesn’t renew funding that expired in September. The rocky mountain state issued a press release earlier this week letting residents know that, while there will be no immediate changes to CHIP, the program currently only has enough money to last until January 31, 2018.
CHIP was created to provide low-cost health coverage to families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. If a family qualifies, they won’t have to buy insurance for their kids. In some states, CHIP covers pregnant women. Every state offers CHIP coverage in some form and the program works closely with its state Medicaid program. While CHIP is federally funded, it is enacted on a state level, making it difficult to track exactly how many children could lose coverage if Congress chooses to not renew funding. But generally, it is estimated that around four million children nationwide could lose coverage, meaning that Colorado’s press release might just be the beginning.
Colorado is the first and only state so far to make an announcement like this but others are likely to do the same if Congress fails to take action to extend CHIP funding. Last week, the Washington Post reported that more than a dozen states will probably send out similar warnings to their residents in the upcoming weeks, given the potential severity of the situation.
The House was able to pass a CHIP funding bill last month but it was rejected by Senate Democrats because the bill called for major cuts in health spending in order to finance the program. For now, there is no plan in place for the House or the Senate to vote on a bill, leaving millions of kids at risk of losing coverage in just a few short months.