Virginia health officials will send letters to families Monday to warn them that the government-funded healthcare program for children will run out of money if it isn't funded by Congress by Jan. 31.
Virginia is the third state to warn families of the potential loss of services. Colorado and Utah have sent similar notices, warning families to look into other options if funding from Congress doesn't come through.
In its letter to families, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services wrote that, "because Congress has not acted yet, we need to let you know that there is a chance the ... programs may have to shut down."
The agency said another letter would come in January if the program was not renewed, and let them know that their benefits are currently unchanged.
Other states are expected to send similar notifications because Congress allowed funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program to expire Sept. 30. Though the House passed a bill to finance the program, 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.
CHIP funding won't officially run out in some states for several months because it is distributed to states in the form of lump sums that they have two years to spend. The news about the letters set to go out in Virginia was reported by WAMU and comes from Linda Nablo, chief deputy director of Virginia's Department of Medical Assistance Services.
BREAKING: Virginia is sending out letters to 68,000 families today warning them that the state's CHIP program may be ending by Jan 31.— Selena S-D (@selenasd) December 11, 2017
The Democratic National Committee blasted Republicans in a statement.
“Republicans were apparently too busy scheming to give billionaires and corporations a tax break to be bothered to re-authorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program," the committee wrote.
"Children and pregnant mothers in Virginia and across the country depend on CHIP for life-saving care, and Republicans must immediately recognize the havoc they are wreaking on families and re-authorize this critical program," it continued. "Healthcare for children should never be a political bargaining chip.”
The federal government has been assisting CHIP programs through a distribution fund as Congress delays appropriating funding, which may come as part of an end-of-year spending bill.