Tennessee Buys Time As Funding Runs Out On CHIP Health Insurance For Kids | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Buys Time As Funding Runs Out On CHIP Health Insurance For Kids

Dec 1, 2017

Tennessee is in a better position than most states as funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program runs out. Congress still hasn't reauthorized what's known as CHIP, and some states are already beginning to send out letters telling families to prepare for coverage to go away.

Tennessee has enough money to make it through May before having to think about next steps, even though the program lapsed at the end of September. According to a government analysis (download here), the state has built up more reserves than most and can use that money until it runs out.

The assumption is that Congress will approve new funding to insure roughly 74,000 Tennesseans. These are mostly children and some pregnant women who make too much money to qualify for TennCare but still have trouble affording health insurance.

To qualify for what is known in Tennessee as CoverKids, a child or pregnant mother has to make less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

If the program is not reauthorized, Tennessee will have to decide whether to fund the insurance with state money like Minnesota is doing or follow Colorado and warn families that they'll need to find another option.

A Tennessean is playing a central role in renewing CHIP. Sen. Lamar Alexander chairs the health committee and praised the U.S. House for doing its part to extend funding earlier this month.

"I will continue working with my Senate colleagues to extend mandatory funding for the programs within the Senate health committee’s jurisdiction," he said in a statement Nov. 3. "I look forward to getting a result as soon as possible."