CHIP and Our Children

As early as next week critical federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a federal/state partnership designed to provide healthcare coverage for children who might otherwise be uninsured, may run out in some states. Currently nearly 9 million children whose low-income families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid are covered by the program. In most of these families one or both parents work, but their income still falls below the upper limits set by states (in many states the limit is $49,200 for a family of four).

CHIP has been a bipartisan success story since its inception in 1997. Both sides of the aisle claim to support it now; there has been no consensus, however, on just how to do so. Funding under the 2015 act that last extended CHIP expired in September; last month Congress voted an additional $2.85 million as a stopgap that was intended to last until March. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), though, some states will run out of federal funds by January 19. Families of children who stand to lose CHIP will be hard-pressed to find any other health care coverage for their children that they can afford. Yet, according to First Focus, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for children’s issues in federal policy and budget decisions, families have already begun to receive disenrollment notices and are “facing an uncertain future” as it relates to their children’s health care.

I don't know about you, but I can quickly envision many negative impacts for American children if CHIP is not funded. Important well-baby visits, vaccines, and diagnostic tests may be missed. Prescriptions may go unfilled. And parents who previously benefited from CHIP may go into debt to pay for their children's care. All of these carry long term risks for our children's health and well-being.

Surely on this issue we can lay aside partisan differences. Please consider urging your representatives and senators to make CHIP funding a priority.

Jane SmithComment