Iowa has sufficient money for the Children's Health Insurance Program to last at least through next March, but an official said Monday that if funding were to be exhausted the state would face "significant policy and fiscal implications."
Known as CHIP at the federal level, the program covers about 9 million kids nationwide in low- to moderate-income households. However, the program expired over the weekend as Congress failed to pass an extension.
In Iowa, about 60,000 kids get health insurance with CHIP funding, with 44,000 on the Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa, or hawk-i, program. The rest are part of the state's Medicaid expansion effort.
The law does allow the use of unspent funds from prior years, so states are currently relying on those accounts. However, some states are in better shape than others with those funds.
Matt Highland, a Department of Human Services official, said Monday that Iowa has enough money to last through next March but, with no other allotments, funding would be depleted sometime in the quarter ending June 30.
That's still several months away, and the CHIP program has tended to have broad bipartisan support in Congress. But extensions have been increasingly short-term, which has been frustrating to advocates and health care providers. In 2013 and 2015, Congress approved two-year extensions.
Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the CHIP program, and he has been pushing for a five-year extension, said Joe Hand, a spokesman.
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"We're still holding out hope for a bipartisan deal," Hand said Monday afternoon.
Bloomberg reported last week that Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, said a bipartisan deal for a multi-year extension was close but that the effort to repeal Obamacare got in the way.
If funding were to run out, it would have significant implications. In an email, Highland said Iowa must maintain eligibility levels through 2020 for the Medicaid expansion program, but without CHIP funding those kids would have to be funded with a smaller federal contribution.
That change alone, he said, would boost state spending by $10 million to $15 million.
The state isn't obligated to continue hawk-i funding if CHIP funding is exhausted, he added, so decisions would have to be made about its future.
"These potential changes to CHIP have significant policy and fiscal implications, and the department will be working with stakeholders as more information regarding federal program changes becomes available," Highland said.
The CHIP program covers about 9 million kids nationwide. The Kaiser Family Foundation said last month that it surveyed states and that 10 replied they would run out of funding by the end of the year. Most of those were in the west.
Families in the program make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but tend not to have enough to afford private insurance.