WASHINGTON — Nevada’s congressional delegation fired off a letter Wednesday urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to send $11.3 million in unused funds to the state to keep a health program for low-income children going until early next year.
Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., in a letter signed by Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Mark Amodei, R-Nev., and Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., asked Administrator Seema Verma to fund the Nevada Check Up program, the state’s Children Health Insurance Program.
The House passed a CHIP reauthorization bill along party lines that changes the program. The Senate is considering its own version of the bill that would extend the current program.
“I am outraged that congressional inaction could result in tens of thousands of vulnerable children in Nevada losing access to health care,” Rosen said.
“Nevada is among a handful of states that will be first to run out of CHIP funding, and I will not stand by to see our children denied coverage,” Rosen added.
The CMS has nearly $3 billion in unspent CHIP dollars to redistribute to states.
Nevada recently sent a request for $11.3 million in redistribution funds to keep Nevada Check Up funded until February 2018.
The House voted 242-117 this month to reauthorize CHIP over objections by Democrats that the bill would cut funding for preventive measures and screenings.
“Nothing in this bill should be controversial, which is why it is disappointing to see 171 Democrats — almost every single Democrat member — vote against it,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
But Titus said the House bill would cut $6.3 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act to provide preventive services like cancer screening and childhood vaccines and wellness programs.
She said the cuts would mean a loss of $1.7 million to the state of Nevada next year if the bill becomes law. And a cut in a grace period for missed ACA payments would result in many people losing health care coverage.
“This Republican measure is not a bill to reauthorize CHIP. It is a bill that attacks the ACA by gutting funding and taking away health insurance,” Titus said.
There are 26,600 Nevada children in CHIP, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, has urged Congress to reauthorize the current program, which ended Sept. 30, the end of the 2017 fiscal year.
If extended, Nevada would receive $78.6 million in federal CHIP money in fiscal 2018, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Access Commission, known as MACPAC. Without reauthorization, Nevada would exhaust its CHIP money between January and March 2018.
Kihuen called the House CHIP reauthorization bill a “reckless” hyperpartisan attack on the ACA and health programs for children and seniors.
“They forced a vote on a bill that will die in the Senate and only delay that funding even further,” Kihuen said.
In September, Sandoval said he has been in contact with Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., about the need to quickly pass reauthorizing legislation and about “the full impact inaction will have on thousands of Nevada children.”
The Senate has waited for the House to take up its version of the reauthorizing legislation. If the bipartisan Senate bill is passed, differences in the two pieces of legislation would be ironed out by a House-Senate conference committee, and a final bill would need to be approved by both chambers.