On Dec. 21, 2017, Congress approved a short-term funding bill to keep the government up and running through Jan. 19, 2018. The stopgap measure also included $2.85 billion to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through March 2018. The temporary relief still leaves CHIP and families that rely on it in a state of uncertainty.
CHIP provides comprehensive coverage, including dental, for children from families who do not qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford private insurance. In 2016, more than one in eight children in the U.S., or 8.9 million, were covered by CHIP.
The patch comes at a critical time. Federal funding for CHIP expired on Sept. 30, 2017. Alarmingly, as of Dec. 6, nine states had reportedly exhausted their FY 2017 allotments and had received redistribution funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to continue coverage. The amounts already distributed account for two-thirds of the total redistribution funds available. Further, a third of states were set to exhaust their funding by the end of January 2018, with an additional 21 states projected to exhaust their federal funds by the end of March 2018.
Impact on General Dentistry: The AGD sent a letter to Congressional leadership on Dec. 7 urging them to take immediate action to extend funding at current levels to ensure the delivery of critical health services provided under CHIP continues uninterrupted and undiminished. The AGD will continue to pressure lawmakers to find a long-term funding solution for the critical program.