Republicans are mounting a last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act before Sept. 30, after which the U.S. Senate will require more than a simple majority to pass any health-care reform bill.

Unfortunately, the full-court press for an Obamacare repeal could deflect attention from a critical issue that puts families nationwide at risk of losing health coverage entirely for their children or facing big premium hikes.

With just a few legislative days left in September, Congress has not ensured that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will continue.

Today, CHIP serves 8.9 million kids nationally. In Colorado, about 90,000 kids and pregnant women use the program to access quality, affordable health care.

Funding for CHIP is slated to run out on Sept. 30. What’s especially confounding is that the Senate Finance Committee announced last week it had reached a bipartisan agreement to extend funding for CHIP for five more years. But Congress must still convert that agreement to full legislative language and submit it to the Senate for a vote. The House must also pass a CHIP bill and if it writes its own language, both bill must be reconciled. After that the president must sign the bill.

That’s a lot of work that has to happen, given the enormous energy going into the effort to drum up support for an Obamacare repeal.

The program has enjoyed bipartisan support since its inception in 1997. CHIP grants states federal matching funds to provide health insurance for children who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but whose families earn too little to afford private health insurance. Colorado’s version, Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) was designed by Colorado state lawmakers to meet the state’s needs.

The program’s provider network is pediatric focused, which puts a premium on wellness. It provides lower cost-sharing options than private plans, but still requires an annual fee and co-pays based on a sliding scale. Without it, out-of-pocket maximums would jump from $789 to $4,500 annually for a family of three living on $32,484, according to the 2017 Colorado CHIP Coalition.

Children’s advocacy organizations say CHP+ has made our state healthier, providing coverage gains for a vulnerable population. Between CHP+ and Medicaid, Colorado has achieved its lowest rate of uninsured kids ever — 2.5 percent.

This program represents a historical commitment to children. While it rests on top of the Medicaid program, it functions as a separate program and shouldn’t be put on the back burner.

Failure to authorize funding would create uncertainty, not only for the families that depend on it for affordable coverage, but for the state, as well. Colorado’s budget is set for the current fiscal year and it stands to lose $254 million annually if CHIP funding expires.

The Senate has already agreed that this program should continue. We implore members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to do their part to ensure that the agreement is formalized before it’s too late and major damage is inflicted unnecessarily.


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