Children’s health insurance in Colorado will be funded at least through February

Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee approved emergency spending, as did Congress, but a long-term solution is still needed.

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Colorado’s bipartisan Joint Budget Committee authorized $9.6 million to cover health insurance for children and pregnant women through February.

The state will only spend this money if a stopgap funding measure approved by Congress is vetoed by President Donald Trump because the federal action will cover the Children’s Health Insurance Program through March.

These measures postpone but do not solve a looming health insurance crisis. Congress allowed CHIP, a program that has enjoyed broad bipartisan support, to expire in October. It provides health insurance to children in families that earn a little too much to qualify for Medicaid, as well as to pregnant women so that they can receive prenatal care.

Lawmakers from both parties have promised to renew it for another five years, but that hasn’t happened yet.

In late November, Colorado sent letters to roughly 75,000 households telling them they would need to find new insurance in 2018. CHIP — known as CHP+ in Colorado — is set to run out of money at the end of January.

This week, Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the Joint Budget Committee to authorize $9.6 million in emergency funding to keep the program going for another month, to the end of February, to give Congress more time to act. On Thursday, members of the JBC agreed.

“We appreciate today’s bipartisan action by the JBC as it gives CHP+ families peace of mind through the holidays. Still, this funding is only temporary,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a press release. “Congress needs to stop playing politics and renew funding for the program.”

Money for the emergency request will come from the Children’s Basic Health Plan Trust, which was created with money from the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement. No general fund money will be used for this purpose.

State Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Republican from Cañon City, suggested in a press release that lawmakers might keep the program going beyond this emergency authorization, which Hickenlooper called a “one-time only bandaid” earlier this week.

“We’re not waiting around for the federal government to act,” Grantham said. “Whether or not they decide to approve CHIP program funding, we have taken steps today to ensure that our children and expectant mothers are cared for. … While I hope the federal government will secure a long-term solution to this issue, the Colorado General Assembly will be ready to act if they do not.”