Funding extended for CHIP program

DOVER — Parents of about 8,000 children in Delaware no longer have to worry about their kids losing health care coverage at the end of the month.

The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday night they reached an agreement to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for five years. The program, which covers about 8.9 million people nationwide, was set to run out of federal funding Sept. 30.

CHIP, as it’s known, offers health care to children whose parents earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

In Delaware, individuals no older than 18 are eligible as long as their family earns less than 213 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that’s about $51,500 a year.

Enrollees pay monthly premiums of $15 or $25 depending on their income. They do not have copays.

Delawareans covered through the program receive a wide range of services, such as mental-health counseling, drug-abuse treatment, physical therapy, x-rays and lab work.

While lawmakers have not yet introduced the bill authorizing continued funding, they expect to do so within a few days and the measure should receive strong support from both sides of the aisle.

Had Congress failed to extend funding, Delaware would have exhausted its federal dollars by March, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. A spokeswoman for the Dela-ware Department of Health and Social Services said in an email the added cost to the state could total $13 million a year without federal funding.

Delaware already pays about $2.9 million every year for CHIP.

In statements, the members of Delaware’s congressional delegation, all Democrats, spoke of the im-portance of extending funding.

“I’m thrilled that the Senate Finance Committee has come to a bipartisan deal for the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester said. “The program has helped millions of uninsured chil-dren get coverage and is especially important to children whose families are low-income. Prioritizing the health and vitality of our children isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s critical to their future, and therefore, ours. I urge my colleagues in the House to follow the lead of the Senate Finance Committee and vote to maintain funding for this critical program.”

Sen. Chris Coons said federal money for CHIP is “imperative,” while Sen. Tom Carper called it “absolutely critical.”

The 14 members of the Delaware House Health & Human Development Committee sent a letter to the congressional delegation Tuesday urging continued funding.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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