HAWLEY WOODS: With her daughter Elizabeth. Justin Rucker

Add this to the list of essential business that must be handled by a divided Congress in the coming weeks: funding for the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which covers 120,000 Arkansas children on ARKids-B.

The other 300,000-plus ARKids recipients have their coverage paid for through Medicaid. Together, CHIP and Medicaid provide health insurance for half the kids in the state. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families warns in a blog post today that CHIP funding will run out on September 30 if not renewed:


Unlike Medicaid, Congress is required to periodically extend funding for CHIP. In 1997, CHIP was originally authorized for 10 years, but recent years have seen much shorter term extensions. Most recently, CHIP was only funded for a two-year period, which will end on September 30, 2017, unless Congress takes steps soon to ensure kids maintain uninterrupted care. A failure to renew CHIP would hurt kids and families in Arkansas and across the U.S.

Leslie Newell Peacock wrote about the 20th anniversary of ARKids — a program created by Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee — earlier this year.

CHIP is popular, and even the most spending averse congressional Republican would have a difficult time opposing it outright. But in the current political climate, with so many moving legislative pieces and multiple fiscal deadlines approaching, nothing should be taken for granted. If Congress can flirt with defaulting on the nation’s debt, it can neglect to fund CHIP.


In addition to the obvious moral reasons to provide insurance to children, Advocates also notes its impact on educational and fiscal outcomes:

The access to quality care that CHIP offers has many benefits beyond improved health because children enrolled in consistent coverage are ready to learn. The educational benefits include:

• Reduced high school dropout rates.
• Increased college enrollment.
• Increased four-year college completion rates.

CHIP is good for state budgets, too. Like Medicaid, the federal government pays a share of the costs for CHIP services. In fact, in Arkansas, 100 percent of the costs for CHIP services are covered by the federal government.

However, if Congress does not reauthorize funding for the program, most states are expected to exhaust their CHIP funds by March 2018, including Arkansas. The current uncertainty being faced by Medicaid and CHIP programs makes it difficult for states because of the huge potential gaps in their state budgets. To ensure states like Arkansas can successfully and responsibly run the program and kids can get the coverage they need, we need a bipartisan, long-term extension of CHIP funding