Legislators say they are close to CHIP deal

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"We must reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program - also known as CHIP - that expired in September".

Extending the Children's Health Insurance Program's budget for an additional decade would save the federal government $6 billion, according to new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Congress is now looking into ways to pay for the program, which costs the federal government about $14.5 billion each year. Last month, Congress approved an 11th hour plan by passing a short-term spending measure to keep the program going until March.

This program plays a critical role in our nation's health care by covering children who fall into a coverage gap - their families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but they also can not afford private health insurance.

The federal government paid almost $14.5 billion for CHIP expenses in fiscal 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Since a September deadline passed without CHIP reauthorization by Congress, funding in MA has included a combination of fiscal 2017 carry-over funds and "redistribution funding" from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the Baker administration.

Without CHIP, dental hygienist Marina Natali says she couldn't afford health coverage for her sons, 12-year-old Ciro (right) and 15-year-old Marcus.

Meanwhile, a House health-care committee gave the nod to a bill (HB 293), which would create a 12-member KidCare Operational Efficiency and Health Care Improvement Workgroup. The reason is the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax bill means adults will exit the insurance marketplace but enroll their children in CHIP.

The House passed a bill in November extending CHIP for five more years, but the Senate has yet to do so.

Rep. Steve Womack believes it's important to make sure CHIP is on "proper fiscal footing for an extended period of time".

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"This uncertainty and the ongoing inaction by Congress increases the likelihood that states will take action to prepare families for the worst". "It is long past time to renew CHIP and I'm proud to join my colleagues who are fighting for the children who depend on it".

CHIP needs to regain long-term funding.

Pennsylvania officials sent a notice to CHIP providers in late December - who then sent it to enrollees - saying it would have to end the program in March unless Congress acts.

"The short term patch that lawmakers included in an end-of-year funding deal only provides momentary relief", the organization wrote.

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