On Monday, 114 days after Congress allowed funding for his daughters’ health insurance program lapse, Denver resident TC Bell breathed a sigh of relief.
But only a little one.
In voting to approve a measure ending the federal government shutdown on Monday, Congress also approved a six-year extension of funding for the national Children’s Health Insurance Program. The program provides health coverage to kids and pregnant women from families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to reasonably afford private coverage. The program in Colorado is known as the Child Health Plan Plus, and it covers nearly 800 pregnant women and more than 75,000 kids here — including Bell’s two little girls.
“I was really happy to see that they were finally putting a longer-term solution into the continuing resolution,” Bell said, referring to the budget bill that, in addition to extending CHIP for years, also funds the rest of the federal government through early February.
“But,” he said, “it’s really disappointing to see both parties resort to using CHIP as a bargaining chip to get what they want from the other side. It could have been resolved so much easier.”
Colorado had been keeping its program running on residual funds and a little bit of state money since funding for CHIP lapsed in October. Had Congress not renewed funding, Colorado could have ended its program as early as March.
Renewal lifts “the burden of uncertainty from families throughout Colorado,” said Kim Bimestefer, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, in a statement. Colorado spends about $185 million per year on the Child Health Plan Plus, with 90 percent of that coming from federal dollars.
Colorado health advocates responded to the reauthorization with enthusiasm, although some expressed concerns about the political cost.
“Huge win for child #healthcare today, but will be in vain if #DACA isn’t also reinstated,” Joe Sammen, the executive director of the Colorado-based Center for Health Progress, wrote on Twitter, referencing the measure granting legal protections to immigrants brought illegally to the country as children.
— Joe Sammen (@joemsammen) January 22, 2018
But Bell said that, while he is relieved the program will continue, he now worries about its future the next time it comes up for renewal.
“This is a really bad precedent that has been established in the last several months,” he said.