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Children play at the Sierra Nevada Academy Charter School preschool on March 14, 2017. Photo by David Calvert.

Nevada is requesting $11.3 million from the federal government to allow the state to continue to operate its public health insurance program for 27,000 children in low-income families through January after funding officially expired for the program at the end of September.

As congressional inaction has left the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program unfunded, the state asked the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Friday to award it redistribution funding, unspent federal allotments for the program from prior years, that will allow the state to continue to run the program until February. The state has been relying on last year’s award to continue to operating the program past the Sept. 30 reauthorization deadline but will soon run out of those funds.

CHIP provides low-cost health insurance to roughly 9 million children nationwide under the age of 19 whose families exceed the income limits for Medicaid but still need help paying for insurance. There were 27,124 children enrolled in Nevada’s CHIP program, known as Nevada Check Up, as of May 2017, and nearly 69,000 Nevada children were enrolled in the program at some point over the last year.

Cody Phinney, deputy administrator for the state’s Division of Health Care Policy and Finance, said that the federal government received the state’s request on Friday and is reviewing it. If the funding is granted, the state projects that the program will continue to operate through February.

“We continue to be hopeful that action will be taken on a more permanent solution before then,” Phinney said in an email.

Five states had been awarded redistribution funding as of October 31: Minnesota, Arizona, Washington, California and Oregon. Minnesota and Arizona exhausted last year’s CHIP funds in October and are projected to run out of redistribution funds in December. Redistribution funds to the other three states are expected to carry their programs over until January.

A total of 28 states, including Nevada, are expected to run out of both in 2017 and redistribution funds by March. Nineteen states have enough to last until June at the latest, while Illinois and Wyoming could make it through the summer.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, has urged Congress to continue funding the program, calling it “essential” to the state’s efforts to ensure access to health insurance for all Nevadans. CHIP funding represents about $63 million of the state’s budget for the current fiscal year.

In early November, the House voted to pass a bill to extend funding for the CHIP program for five years. Two Nevada Democrats, Ruben Kihuen and Dina Titus, joined 172 other representatives in opposing the bill, criticizing House Republicans for including provisions in the legislation to cut funding from an Affordable Care Act grantmaking fund, limiting the grace period for missed Obamacare plan payments and charging higher Medicare premiums to high-income seniors. (The third House Democrat, Jacky Rosen, voted for the bill saying that it had “serious flaws” but that she “could not in good conscience” vote against renewing the program.)

The legislation also extends funding for federally qualified health centers, nonprofit clinics in medically-underserved areas that treat patients regardless of their ability to pay, for two years. Funding for the health centers also lapsed on Sept. 30.

The Senate Finance Committee passed its own, separate CHIP funding bill last month, which didn’t include funding for federally qualified health centers or funding offsets included in the House bill.

Earlier this year, Sandoval signed into law a bill that will allow immigrant children to enroll in CHIP without the typical five-year waiting period. However, the state Division of Welfare and Supportive Services has not yet added those children into the CHIP coverage group due to the uncertainty over the reauthorization of the funding.

Michelle Rindels contributed to this report.

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