House Speaker Mac McCutcheon says Alabama Legislature will help fund CHIP, if Congress fails

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon tells WHNT News 19 the Alabama Legislature will move to fill in the gap if Congress fails to provide funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP,  that serves about 160,000 kids in Alabama.

The CHIP program was not renewed by Congress last fall as expected and state officials say the current funding is likely to run out in March, unless Congress acts.

The Alabama Legislature begins its regular session on Tuesday and McCutcheon said legislators will be keeping an eye on Congress to see if CHIP funding will come through. He said the state carried over about $90 million from last year’s budget, which could help with funding shortfalls.

“A lot of kids in this state depend on that program for their medical care," McCutcheon said.  "And we have to make sure that we subsidize whatever we have to keep the program going.”

Through CHIP the federal government pays 100-percent of the cost for Alabama’s All Kids programs, which provides health insurance for children of low-income families who make a bit too much money to qualify for Medicaid. All Kids covers about 83,000 kids in Alabama at an annual cost of about $200 million.

Another 77,000 kids in Alabama are covered with CHIP money through the Medicaid program. That money is required to be spent, but the All Kids funds are not part of a federal entitlement program.

Congress issued some temporary funding in December to extend the CHIP program a few months, but state officials say the current estimates show the money running out in about two months.