Pa. officials scramble to plan for possible CHIP shutdown

Pennsylvania’s interim Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller says she fears that the CHIP program will not be reauthorized. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Pennsylvania’s interim Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller says she fears that the CHIP program will not be reauthorized. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Fights over federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has states trying to figure out how long their programs can hold out without getting more money.

Pennsylvania is no exception.

The commonwealth’s CHIP program may last only until March if federal lawmakers don’t act soon.

CHIP funding expired at the end of September. And a measure that would reauthorize it for five more years is wrapped up in partisan gridlock in Congress over an end-of-year spending bill.

Pennsylvania’s interim Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said, until this week, she really thought the program would be reauthorized. But now she’s not sure.

“I’m very, very concerned that we are going to be in a situation where, over the holidays, we at the department are going to have to send letters to families letting them know that their child is no longer going to have health insurance,” she said.

CHIP insures more than 180,000 kids statewide, and it costs nearly a half-billion dollars to run. Federal money pays for almost 90 percent of that.

Miller said the commonwealth couldn’t come close to covering it alone.

“For states like Pennsylvania that have budget struggles as it is, coming up with $400 million or somewhere around there is just not something that we can do” she said.

If CHIP ends, some children may be able to move onto their parents’ insurance plans. But Miller said many will simply go uninsured.

States are expecting to know the program’s fate by Friday.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.