Nevada Senators urge CHIP renewal

The current funding re-authorization for the national Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired Sept. 30. The program makes health care possible for children whose parents cannot afford health care insurance. States do contribute to the program but the federal government picks up most of the cost.

Nevada is projected to run out of current funding on or around Dec. 15. The situation was urgent enough to bring Nevada's senators from both sides of the aisle together to urge senate leadership to move forward to reauthorize CHIP funding.

In the meantime, according to the joint news release from Nevada's Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Dean Heller, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Nevada will be provided with additional redistribution funding in December and January.

Masto and Heller said they are hopeful Congress will act by then to formally reauthorize CHIP funding. Until Congress renews CHIP, states are cut off from additional federal funding for the insurance program that helps cover children in lower and middle income families that earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid.

CHIP allows states to have some flexibility to design their own program —within federal guidelines. In Nevada, the CHIP program is called Nevada Check-Up. It offers free or low-cost health insurance that covers regular check-ups, immunizations, doctor and dentist visits, hospital care, mental health services, prescriptions and more for kids and teens whose families qualify.

In Nevada, 27,000 children are covered under by CHIP funding under Nevada Check-Up. Nevada children living in a family of four earning up to $48,600 a year or more may qualify for Nevada Check-Up coverage.

Senate Bill 1827, bipartisan legislation called "Keeping Kids' Insurance Dependable and Secure," was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Oct. 4 and would extend funding for five years, as well as provide additional protections for low-income children and increase flexibility for the states.

CHIP was created, with bipartisan support, in 1997. It helped lower the percentage of uninsured children from nearly 14 percent when it was passed, to 4.5 percent in 2015.