Special session idea No. 3: Children's health insurance funding

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Special session idea No. 3: Children's health insurance funding

NY will have to convene a special legislative session to address a almost $1 billion shortfall if Congress doesn't quickly renew funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the state's health department said Wednesday.

Funding for CHIP expired September 30, but most states have some leeway and won't exhaust their money right away.

CHIP is crucial, as it helps to cover children who fall into a gap - their families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but they also can not afford private health insurance. CHIP has always received strong bipartisan support, and it's time to act to ensure the continuation of this vital program.

The governor also said Congress's failure to renew the Health Centers Program by the deadline will mean a $138 million cut in funding for 650 health centers around the state.

CHIP serves an estimated 8.9 million youngsters whose parents have moderate incomes (up to double the poverty level nationally or quadruple in NY - $82,000 a year for a family of three), but not low enough to qualify for Medicaid coverage. The timeline for this varies by state, but the only way to avoid confusing messages to families is for Congress to cleanly extend CHIP for five years. That rate has dropped from 14.8 percent in 1996 to 4.5 percent in 2016, and there's little doubt CHIP is the main reason.

Our national focus should now be on finding common ground in health care, and CHIP is the ideal opportunity to start working together.

Legislation to renew the CHIP program appears to be moving forward in both the House and Senate but it's uncertain when final votes will take place in either chamber.

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