With Federal Children’s Health Coverage Uncertain, Washington And Oregon Consider Options

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Washington and Oregon are making contingency plans in case Congress doesn’t reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which is for low-income families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Funding for CHIP expired in September. Since then the program has been operating on a month-to-month basis with leftover federal funds.

For years the CHIP program has enjoyed bipartisan federal support. But during the battle over the Affordable Care Act, the deadline to fund it expired

Mary Wood is an assistant Medicaid director at Washington’s Health Care Authority. She says 50,000 kids in the state rely on CHIP.

“For families the care is so invaluable and there are certainly kids receiving care who are needing ongoing care, so it’s invaluable for the families who are on it,” Wood said.

Wood is hopeful that Congress will reauthorize the program in December. If that doesn’t happen, state funds might be needed to keep the kids covered.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has asked the Oregon Health Authority to find the money to keep CHIP going — at least until April. Even if that means creating a budget shortfall. 

That means 80,000 children and 1,700 pregnant women in Oregon at risk of losing coverage will keep it. That’s equivalent to the population of Bend in the high-desert central region of the state.

There’s hope Congress may still act to support CHIP.

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