Colorado sends letters to CHP+ recipients warning that federal match runs out at end of January

Congress still hasn't acted on CHIP funding
Colorado sends letters to CHP+ recipients warning that federal match runs out at end of January
Posted at 5:08 PM, Nov 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-27 20:06:00-05

DENVER – Colorado is advising people who use the state’s Children’s Health Plan Plus (CHP+) program to start looking for private insurers in the event that federal funding for the program runs out early next year.

The state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing started sending letters to the approximately 70,000 people covered by CHP+ notifying them that if Congress doesn’t act to restore federal CHIP funding, which helps fund CHP+ in Colorado, that the state’s matched funding will run out at the end of January.

"We remain cautiously optimistic Congress will renew federal funding, but we want our families enrolled in CHP+ to be aware that changes may be coming and not be caught off guard should the program come to an end,” said Colorado Medicaid Director Gretchen Hammer.

CHP+ covers more than 75,000 children and almost 800 pregnant women in Colorado, and allows them to earn up to $5,330 per month in insurance coverage for a family of four.

The state warned in early October that the funding match would dry up by Jan. 31 if Congress doesn’t act. It said at the time that once the federal funding runs out through CHIP for Colorado, the more-than 75,000 people in Colorado whose coverage is funded through CHIP would retain coverage through Medicaid, but would see reduced funding in the federal match.

The state would have to cover the remaining funding, which it says would “further strain” the state budget.

The letters sent out Monday warn people “there is no guarantee” Congress will restore the funding, and said that if Congress doesn’t act by late December, the state will send a letter to the same group of people letting them know when their CHP+ benefits end and what others plans they might qualify for.

In the meantime, the state asks people covered under CHP+ to sign up for a PEAK account for the most-timely updates.

The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing also said Monday it was working with the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, to figure out what plans people might be able to buy otherwise. The state wrote that “the loss of CHP+ coverage would be a life change event and result in a special enrollment period through the marketplace.”

"It's frustrating that our CHP+ families are facing this uncertainty, especially during the holidays," said Tom Massey, interim executive director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. "We are hopeful the federal government will act quickly to renew funding and alleviate further worry by Colorado families who rely on this important program."

The state has set up a web page for frequently-asked questions about CHP+ funding, and more information about private insurance plans and Connect for Health Colorado enrollment, which is open now, can be found here.

A department spokesman also said that yearly application fees people pay to sign up for CHP+, which range between $0 and $105 based on income and coverage, would not be refunded even if the federal match ends.

As of last week, enrollment on Connect for Health Colorado was up 33 percent from the same period in 2016.

Sens. Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) are cosponsoring a bill that would extend CHIP funding through 2022, and several others Colorado Democrats in Congress have also called for the program to be extended.