Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

You’ve seen this word floating around social media and newspaper articles for some time now. I’m here to address what CHIP is and why you should care about it. 

What is CHIP?

HIP tands for Children’s Health Insurance Program. It’s a federally funded program that provides low-cost health coverage for children in families and pregnant mothers who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but still find it hard to afford health insurance. This program benefits an estimated 9 million children and 375,000 pregnant mother. Eligibility varies from state to state, and CHIP is often closely tied with the states’ Medicaid programs. Benefits include, but are not limited to: routine check-ups, immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, dental/vision care, inpatient/outpatient hospital care, laboratory and x-ray services, and emergency services. Some states offer more benefits, so check with your state to see what benefits your state offers. Routine “well-child” visits and dental visits are free, but some states require a monthly premiums or copays at each visit. However, CHIP ensures that families won’t have to pay more than 5% of their family’s income on healthcare costs. 

Families/pregnant mothers can apply for CHIP at any time in the year. If they apply for Medicaid coverage, then they can find out if their children qualify for CHIP. 

CHIP is a popular act that receives bipartisan support from both political parties, which is a huge deal given that both sides don’t agree on much. 

The takeaway here is that CHIP is federally-funded (states fund a tiny bit as well) program that provides low-cost health coverage for children and pregnant mothers. It’s also in danger of disappearing. 

Why Should I Care About CHIP?

Before I dig in, I need to go back to 2009. When Obama signed the ACA in 2009, he also signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). This act authorized for the program to exist through 2019. Also, the act gave significant new funding to CHIP and gave incentives for covering children through Medicaid and CHIP. One of its goals was to help states identify, enroll, and retain health coverage for children. The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) was tasked to identify ways to measure the quality of care that was provided through CHIP. It’s important to make sure that programs that provide low-cost care don’t provide low-quality care. 

Fast forward to September 30, 2017. Why is this date important? Well, on that day federal funding for CHIP EXPIRED. 

When states run out of funding, they can dip into their unused federal funds, but those funds will only last for so lon. In fact, some states have ran out of funding in December 2017, and most states will run out of funding by the summer. As a result, states will have to begin to unravel their programs, leaving millions without coverage. 

While the Senate Finance and House Energy and Commerce committees were discussing a bill that continued authorization of CHIP through 2022 and renew funding until 2020 where afterwards the funding levels will return back to pre-ACA levels. 

Hopefully, the lawmakers will renew funding for CHIP, as it is a great program and aids millions of people. But, the program itself should NOT be a bargaining tool for lawmakers because this program should have been refunded back in September. There will always be politics in healthcare, but politics should NOT prevent people from having healthcare. 

NPR article to check out with some good information about CHIP: