BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana has four months remaining of the federal money needed to pay for health insurance coverage for low-income children and pregnant women, as Congress allowed the program’s financing to expire in September.
Without a reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, by February, Louisiana would have to come up with at least $31 million to keep the coverage in place and could eventually have to boot people out of the program or, at the least, lessen their services, according to Louisiana’s health department.
“With dire budget problems at our doorstep, Louisiana would be hard-pressed to maintain current levels of health care access for these vulnerable children,” Andrew Tuozzolo, chief of staff for the Louisiana Department of Health, said Wednesday in a statement.
As many as one in six children and pregnant women who otherwise would be eligible for the program in Louisiana could lose their coverage if Congress doesn’t renew CHIP, according to a state document outlining the impact of the expiration. Changing eligibility to shrink the number of people in the program, however, would require approval from the federal Medicaid agency.
Tuozzolo described Louisiana’s CHIP program as “a fundamental element of care for our state’s underserved children,” giving more than 122,000 children insurance coverage through Medicaid.
“Thanks to this program, between 2003 and 2015, our uninsured rate among children dropped from 11.1 percent to 3.8 percent — among the lowest in the nation,” he said.
The U.S. House and Senate each have proposals to continue federal financing for the program, which expired Sept. 30. The Senate began moving one of those measures Wednesday, facing pressure from states.
The program has broad support and renewed financing is expected to win approval, but it’s unclear how quickly that will happen amid unrelated congressional disputes and disagreement over how to pay for the children’s insurance program.
Louisiana started its CHIP program in 1998. The program covers children up to age 19 who come from low- to moderate-income families, along with pregnant women from similar income levels until they give birth.
CHIP is financed through states’ Medicaid programs, with the federal government covering most of the cost for the children’s insurance and states paying a portion.
For Louisiana, that means the state has to pay about 3.4 percent of the price tag for the children’s insurance coverage, rather than the nearly 37 percent required to draw down federal funds to pay for some other services offered through the Medicaid program.
If Congress doesn’t reauthorize the children’s insurance program financing, Louisiana would have to start paying the nearly 37 percent cost share to keep the program and its services intact, according to the health department.
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