Minnesota will have to spend $178 million over the next 18 months if Congress fails to reauthorize a federal health insurance program that covers 125,000 children in the state, according to the budget forecast released Tuesday.
Minnesota has essentially exhausted its funds from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, after Congress let the program’s funding lapse in September.
For the most part, families will not lose coverage in Minnesota, although that is scheduled to happen in some other states. Minnesota used CHIP money to supplement funding for eligible children in the state’s Medicaid program; the 125,000 affected children will keep their Medicaid coverage but the state will lose the federal CHIP funding that paid part of the cost.
“There are budget consequences because Minnesota is picking up more costs because of congressional inaction,” said Emily Piper, Minnesota’s Human Services commissioner.
While $178 million is a modest sum compared to the almost $5 billion Minnesota pays for its Medicaid program, several politicians noted Tuesday that the state’s projected $188 million budget deficit would almost disappear if not for the lost CHIP money.
Several Republican state lawmakers expressed hope that the federal CHIP money would be reinstated.
“We have assurances from Congress that we will get reimbursed for that,” Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said at a news conference Tuesday.
Piper said Congress might be forced into action as more states notify families that they are losing their health insurance.
“More states are running out of money,” Piper said. “I think that creates increased pressure on individual senators, which may help to get some momentum for Congress to act as a whole.”
If Congress does not act, however, about 1,700 pregnant women in Minnesota who are also on CHIP could lose coverage by next spring.
During the last Bush administration, Congress approved CHIP to cover pregnant immigrants in the country illegally, giving them coverage for pre- and postnatal care as well as labor and delivery. But those immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid, and under Minnesota law they would be eligible only for emergency medical care to pay for labor and delivery. For now, Minnesota is paying for their care using $4.6 million provided to the state by the federal government and some CHIP funds carried forward from last year.
Piper said those funds should suffice to cover the pregnant women until April or May.
Even if Congress does reauthorize the insurance program, Minnesota’s CHIP funding to supplement Medicaid would essentially be cut in half after 2019. That’s because the 2010 Affordable Care Act provided a temporary increase in CHIP funding to the states.