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Nevada receives $5.7M to keep child health programs running

Updated December 1, 2017 - 5:47 pm

WASHINGTON — Nevada will receive $5.7 million in unspent funds for federal health care for low-income children, but the state’s entire congressional delegation urged House and Senate leaders Friday to quickly reauthorize the program that expired two months ago.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notified the state that it would receive the redistribution of unspent funds, which should allow Nevada to provide Children’s Health Insurance Program services through January.

Nevada was expected to run out of CHIP funds around Dec. 15, prompting Gov. Brian Sandoval and the state’s bipartisan congressional delegation to urge quick action to reauthorize the program.

In a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Nevada’s U.S. Sens. Dean Heller, a Republican, and Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, urged quick renewal of CHIP to “provide children and families in Nevada” the certainty they deserve.

Last week, the state’s House delegation fired off a letter urging the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to send $11.3 million in unused funds to the state to keep the health program for low-income children operating until February.

Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., in a letter signed by Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., and Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., asked Administrator Seema Verma to fund Nevada’s Check Up Program, the state’s Children Health Insurance Program.

The House passed a CHIP reauthorization bill along party lines that changes the program. A Senate verson would extend the current program for five years.

“It is unconscionable that even one child would lose health coverage due to congressional inaction,” said Rosen. She said she was grateful the CMS funded the Nevada CHIP program until early next year, but said she would continue to push congressional leadership and the administration to reach a long-term solution.

CMS has nearly $3 billion in unspent CHIP dollars to redistribute to states. It began redistributing those funds this week.

The House voted 242-117 earlier this month to reauthorize the CHIP over objections by Democrats that the bill would cut funding for preventive measures and screenings.

“This disastrous CHIP bill I opposed in the House earlier this month has no chance of passing in the Senate,” Titus said.

Titus, who as a state senator helped create the Nevada Check UP program, said the House bill would cost Nevada $1.7 million in annual funding for services like cancer screenings, opioid addiction treatment and childhood vaccines.

CHIP funding for the state pays for health services for 27,515 children on Nevada Check Up, and 13,076 children on Medicaid, for a total of 40,591 children.

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.

CHIP was created 20 years ago to provide health coverage for vulnerable children in families that were too poor to afford private coverage, but still didn’t qualify for Medicaid.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, helped create the program with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Hatch and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, have filed a bill in the Senate that would reauthorize CHIP in its current form for five years and keep federal funds flowing to states, which provide a match.

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.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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