Alabama health officials plan to send letters to families the day after Christmas to warn them that a federally funded medical insurance program that covers 80,000 children in the state will run out.
Cathy Caldwell, who runs the program that is funded by the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, told the Anniston Star that if Congress doesn’t renew spending, her office would send notices to families on Dec. 26. If Congress doesn't approve the funding, it would run out by Feb. 1. New enrollees would be prevented from joining the program as early as Jan. 1.
Three other states have already sent out similar letters, and other states are expected to follow. The program, known to most as CHIP, expired Sept. 30.
In most states, the funding will not run out for several months because of the way it is distributed. It goes to states as lump sums and allows them up to two years to spend it.
The House passed a bill to finance CHIP, but the Senate has not advanced its own version and it hasn't laid out how to pay for it. CHIP typically has bipartisan support, but it has been sidelined because of Congress' focus on passing a tax bill and its previous efforts to undo parts of Obamacare. A final deal may come as part of an end-of-year spending agreement.
The federal government has been assisting specific states through a reserve fund of $3 billion, nearly half of which has been spent.