Las Vegas Sun

November 15, 2018

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CHIP deal nixes need for Nevada to fund state health plan

Congress is funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program for the next six years, a move that has taken pressure off the state to find money to continue services.

Nevada can expect roughly $6 million per month starting in March to support insurance for roughly 27,000 children whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, said Cody Phinney, deputy administrator for the Division of Health Care Policy and Finance.

Six years of CHIP funding were included in a temporary spending measure approved this week, ending a three-day government shutdown caused by a lack of protections for young immigrants living in the country illegally. Nevada Check Up, the state’s CHIP program, would have run out of money after February without state or congressional intervention.

State officials have withdrawn a request for the Legislature to move funds around and continue the program, Phinney said.

“We’re very happy,” Phinney said. “We won’t have to ask to use other state funds that then would have impacted other programs.”

Since federal funding for the program expired Sept. 30, states have been spending money allocated in December through a temporary spending resolution, along with redistributed, unused CHIP dollars.

There were several other efforts in Congress to continue the program, including a bill that would have funded CHIP for 10 years. Others proposed to eliminate a bump in enhanced matching dollars, funding approved initially to incentivize states to expand CHIP. The Affordable Care Act boosted that enhanced match.

The continuing resolution signed by President Donald Trump on Monday retains the bump in the enhanced match and steps it down to eliminate it after fiscal year 2020.

“Certainly stability for families is preferred, but stability through 2023 is pretty darn good,” Phinney said. “Having it be completely unfunded for as long as it was was very stressful for people that were trying to find a way to mitigate the impact on those families. So luckily the stress was on us here running the program and we were able to avoid putting that stress on families.”

Phinney said the state has been focused on maintaining the program amid federal uncertainty. Now that there is some stability through 2023, she said, officials can focus on funding the gradual elimination of the bump in enhanced matching dollars.

“Because it’s a gradual step down over the next three years, that really allows us to be mindful to follow the state’s budget process and to plan for that and allow families to plan for their benefits,” Phinney said.