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Child Health Plan Plus funding may expire; state advises looking at alternatives

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Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 10:26 AM
State funding for Child Health Plan Plus, a public low-cost health insurance program, could expire in January. The state is encouraging pregnant women and parents of children enrolled in the program to research alternatives.

As uncertainty around the funding for Child Health Plan Plus drags on, the state is advising pregnant women and parents of children enrolled in the public low-cost health insurance program to research alternatives.

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing sent letters earlier this month advising Child Health Plan Plus members to look into plans offered by Connect for Health Colorado because funding for CHP+ could run out Jan. 31, 2018, according to a news release.

"It doesn't hurt to start doing homework now and be ready to go in January," said Luke Clarke, a spokesman for Connect for Health Colorado.

Federal funding for the program that serves families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid ended on Sept. 30, but the state had enough funding to continue the program for a few additional months.

Statewide, the program serves 75,000 kids and about 800 pregnant women. In La Plata County, the program serves about 950 people, according to San Juan Basin Public Health.

"It provides a means of paying for care to protect our most vulnerable neighbors," said Kevin O'Connor, health literacy program lead with San Juan Basin Public Health.

Pending bills in Congress, such as the Championing Health Kids Act, would renew funding for the program. But there are no guarantees that funding will be renewed, and residents are calling San Juan Basin Public Health and the Piñon Project in Cortez with questions.

"We are telling them at this point to stay in touch, we will certainly be here to help them, whatever decision is made," said Dave Hart, health program director with Piñon Project.

The state advises CHP+ members to continue using their insurance through January.

If the program ends, parents with kids on CHP+ would be eligible for tax credits to pay insurance premiums and for lower deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance through Connect for Health Colorado, Clarke said.

"The way assistance is calculated means that the children can be added to the parents' plan at little or no cost. However, to obtain coverage anywhere close to the level of CHP+ could be expensive for many parents," O'Connor said.

If funding for CHP+ expires on Jan. 31, families would have 60 days after that date to enroll in Connect for Health Colorado, Clarke said.

Families could enroll in the state health exchange as late as Jan. 31, 2018, and have insurance the next day for their children or expecting mothers, he said. If families wait until Feb. 1 or after to enroll in Connect for Health, children or moms could be without insurance until the first day of the next month.

But it would be easier to enroll earlier in January to receive an insurance card for a new plan before the new coverage takes effect.

It's possible that federal funding for CHP+ could be renewed after the state money for the insurance runs out, and that creates the possibility that families would go back and forth between insurance plans, Clarke said.

"That's hard on the family budget," he said.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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