Congressional Budget Office
Congressional Budget Office

Connecticut officials have again extended health care coverage for more than 17,000 children and teenagers in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), this time through March 31.

Federal authorization for CHIP, known as HUSKY B in Connecticut, expired on Sept. 30. Connecticut and most other states kept the program going by using unspent funds from the past two years and transfers from other states that had excess funds that dated back further than two years.

Initially, in Connecticut, that money was projected to run out on Jan. 31. But Congress approved a stopgap spending bill in December that provided $2.85 billion to states that were running out of CHIP money, Connecticut officials announced that the termination date was extended to Feb. 28.

This week, state officials once again pushed back the deadline — to March 31  — if Congress does not act.

“Now, updated information from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about the projected level of additional funding distributions has enabled us to reevaluate the previously announced closure date,” according to a post on the state Department of Social Services website, which oversees CHIP. “In the event of further federal funding, we will be able to announce additional extensions.”

State officials will send out another round of letters to affected families.

GOP leaders proposed a six-year extension of the CHIP program in a short-term spending bill that that would keep the federal government from shutting down shortly after midnight Friday.

The House approved that spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, on a largely party line vote Thursday — without the support of any of Connecticut’s House members.

But that bill is stalled in the Senate and reauthorization of the CHIP program is still uncertain.

In a letter to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo Friday, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said if CHIP is not fully reauthorized and federal support ends as of March, “not only will more than 17,000 children and youths lose health insurance coverage, but services currently reimbursed by the federal government at the enhanced CHIP matching rate will be reduced to the regular Medicaid matching rate, resulting in additional state costs of $10 million in FY 2018, and over $40 million on an annualized basis.”

CHIP is funded largely through federal dollars, with a smaller contribution – 12 percent — paid by the state. It covers children whose families earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid and provides health care for children in families of four earning up to $79,458 a year.

Currently, higher-income families pay a small premium each month, a maximum of $30 for one child and $50 for two or more children. A family of four that makes less than $62,485 is not required to make these payments.

Washington correspondent Ana Radelat contributed to this story.

Mackenzie is a former health reporter at CT Mirror. Prior to her time at CT Mirror, she covered health care, social services and immigration for the News-Times in Danbury and has more than a decade of reporting experience. She traveled to Uganda for the News-Times to report an award-winning five-part series about a Connecticut doctor's experience in Africa. A native of upstate New York, she started her journalism career at The Recorder in Greenfield, Mass., and worked at Newsday on Long Island for three years. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she wrote her master's thesis about illegal detentions in Haiti's women's prison.

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