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Congressional Inaction Could Cost Wi. CHIPS Program


Wisconsin could lose up to $115 million a year if unless Congress acts to renew a program called the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIPS. 118,000 children are covered under the program in Wisconsin. Because of Wisconsin law, those children will remain covered, but the state will need to pick up the burden instead of being reimbursed from Washington, D.C.

Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin group Kids Forward says the program began 20 years ago on a bipartisan basis to expand health coverage for kids in low-income working families...

"....the idea was that we didn't want to have parents who are leaving welfare to go to work to have to go back on welfare, to give up their jobs in order to qualify for Medicaid, which used to be the case...."

The federal government provided more money to the state's to cover more kids. It's now part of the Wisconsin's Badgercare program.

Peacock says if the CHIPS funding runs out, Wisconsin law says those children still need to be covered.

"....that's going to cost the state about $9.5 million evey month once our current allotment runs out. We have a bit of a carryover from last year that is going to run out in March or April. Then each year if we don't have CHIP funding then the state will have to spend $115 million more for Badgercare."...

Peacock says it's unclear how the state would address the shortfall. He thinks the law continues to have broad bipartisan support in Congress. He says both the House and Senate have talked about extensions. He says the sticking point in Congress is how they're going to pay for it.

He says a backdrop is the likely passage of a large federal tax cut, which will add to the national debt over 10 years. He worries that might pressure members of Congress to look at CHIPS funding to make up the shortfall.

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