Cantwell Applauds Committee Passage of Children’s Health Insurance Bill

Legislation restores funding for health insurance for 60,000 kids in Washington state

GOP had allowed program to lapse, instead pursuing misguided ACA repeal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) helped secure the passage of the Keep Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure Act (KIDS) through the Senate Committee on Finance, of which she is a senior member. The legislation extends recently lapsed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2022. The bill now advances to the full U.S. Senate for consideration. The House of Representatives is today considering its own legislation extending CHIP funding.

CHIP is a successful program that helps low-income families get health insurance for their children.  The program has played a critical role in driving down Washington’s uninsured rate for children to an all-time low of below 3 percent – one of the lowest rates nationwide.  Without congressional action extending funding for CHIP, more than 60,000 kids in Washington state are at risk of losing their health insurance or facing higher costs, while the state of Washington would face a $200 million funding shortfall.

“We must never forget what this program means for millions of children and their families.  We must keep the focus on covering kids and the adult population that go along with them in the most cost-effective way possible,” said Senator Cantwell.

While Senate Republicans focused on a final doomed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the CHIP program expired on October 1. If the legislation is not passed through the full Senate and House and signed into law by the president quickly, Washington state’s funding to cover children will run dry by November 2017. Additionally, 10 states will run out of CHIP funding before the end of the year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In a Senate Finance Committee hearing last month, Senator Cantwell touted the importance of the program to Washington state’s kids and called for innovation in the delivery of health care to bring down costs and increase access.

Cantwell has been a strong advocate for the CHIP program since her election to the Senate. In 2007, she championed a CHIP “fix” – called the “qualifying state option” – that has enabled Washington state to receive its fair share of federal CHIP funds to cover tens of thousands of previously uninsured children. Before this fix was enacted, Washington was financially penalized for covering low-income children on its own prior to the enactment of CHIP. The KIDS Act renews the qualifying state option for five years.

Senator Cantwell also filed two amendments to the KIDS Act. Those amendments would:

  • Expand the Basic Health Program (BHP) available to states under the Affordable Care Act. The BHP allows states to bundle patients on the individual market and negotiate directly with insurers to lower costs. Cantwell’s provision would expand eligibility for BHP plans to those with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty line. Currently, New York and Minnesota both operate highly successful Basic Health Programs.
  • Extend for five years a provision of the Affordable Care Act that increased the federal matching rate for the CHIP program by 23 percent.