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Hatch bill to reauthorize funding for children's health insurance passes committee

FILE - Legislation sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch that would reauthorize funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program passed through committee Wednesday following a markup hearing and will now move to the U.S. Senate floor for consideration.
FILE - Legislation sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch that would reauthorize funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program passed through committee Wednesday following a markup hearing and will now move to the U.S. Senate floor for consideration.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch that would reauthorize funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program passed through committee Wednesday following a markup hearing and will now move to the U.S. Senate floor for consideration.

“Today’s advancement of the KIDS Act is an important step toward ensuring the children and families who rely on CHIP do not see a lapse in health coverage,” Hatch, R-Utah, said in a statement. “Extending funding for CHIP has been a top priority of this committee, and I am pleased to see the committee advance this policy today.”

The Children's Health Insurance Program provides health care coverage for people 18 years old and younger who live in low-income households that still earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid. As of August, nearly 19,400 children in Utah were insured through the program, according to data from the state Medical Care Advisory Committee.

The upper limit cutoff for household income for the program's recipients is 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Health care policy think tank Kaiser Family Foundation estimates about 8.9 million children nationwide were enrolled in the program as of fiscal year 2016.

Funding authorization for the Children's Health Insurance Program officially expired Sunday, prompting some health care insurance advocates in Utah to criticize Congress for not acting sooner to renew the popular program, though Hatch's office has said the states still have remaining funding to operate the program over the coming months.

Utah officials also wrote the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Sept. 15 seeking to clarify that Utah's program would cease insurance coverage for beneficiaries in the event that federal funds dried up.

If that were to occur, the Utah Department of Health would also be prepared to send notices to families by early November that their insurance through the Children's Health Insurance Program could expire soon. Without funding renewal, funds for the program in Utah would run out by the end of December, according to data provided by the department to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Hatch spoke Wednesday to the Senate Finance Committee, which he chairs and which passed the reauthorization measure to the Senate floor, about the need for quick action in renewing the flow of federal money to the program.

"As we know, federal CHIP funding expired last week," he said. "And while states and (Washington), D.C. have funding leftover … it is still paramount that we act quickly both here in committee and through the next steps in the process to ensure eligible children do not go uninsured once federal funding is exhausted."

The reauthorization bill, called the Keeping Kids' Insurance Dependable and Secure Act, would continue funding for the program through 2022. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who introduced the bill along with Hatch, also warned of the need to act quickly in a statement released Wednesday.

“Congress must get a CHIP bill to the president’s desk as soon as possible – every day that goes by without action means more harmful consequences for families and states," Wyden said. "I look forward to working with (Senate Finance Committee) Chairman Hatch and members on both sides of the aisle to get CHIP across the finish line for kids and their families.”