Nevada elected officials have won a short-term reprieve to keep alive a Children's Health Insurance Program while they press Congress to reauthorize money to care for more than 40,000 children in the state.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller said he's co-sponsoring a bipartisan measure that would allocate funds for the CHIP program for another year, through December 2018. Nevada is among several states seeking continued funding after Congress missed a Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize funds for children's health program nationwide.
"Children's care should not be held hostage by political disputes," said Heller, a Republican from Nevada who is seeking re-election next November. "Inaction is not an option."
Heller's announcement Friday came a day after Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval announced that the state had been promised $5.6 million in stopgap funding from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to keep the CHIP program operating in Nevada at least until February. The money Nevada is getting is a redistribution of CHIP program funds unspent by other states.
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"I am grateful that CMS approved this appropriation," Sandoval said. "However, the state needs a permanent fix."
More than 40,000 children in Nevada depend on CHIP for medical insurance to meet individual health care needs, the governor said in a statement announcing the funding.
"This includes children who are currently receiving treatment for serious medical conditions which will be jeopardized without Congressional action," he said.
Without the CMS funding, money for the Nevada program would have run out Dec. 15, said Michael Willden, Sandoval's chief of staff and former head of the state Department of Health and Human Services
"We're kind of month-to-month at this point," Willden said Friday. "We want to keep coverage for these kids. It's pretty cost-effective health care."
Sandoval also sent letters to the six members of Nevada's congressional delegation calling for reauthorization of the CHIP program.
The annual program cost in Nevada is about $43 million. It's covered almost entirely by federal funding. About 27,500 children are served through Nevada Check Up, and another 13,000 through Medicaid.
"It is a limited amount of funding and shrinking rapidly as every state is experiencing shortfalls with the lapse of CHIP authorization," Sandoval said in his statement.