Congress

CHIP CHIP Hooray!

Last week was an exciting one for children’s health. After a harrowing few months of uncertainty over the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — the very important federal children’s health insurance program which covers about 9 million children nationwide — Congress agreed to reauthorize CHIP for another six years. You can read about this fantastic news here at NPR.  

 

We will continue to monitor this big news to examine more closely what this means for children’s health and access in the immediate future. The past few months should have taught us that we should not take the program for granted. After all, the fact that CHIP — an “uncontroversial” program throughout its 20-year history — faced such an existential crisis is an indication of our current political climate. According to NPR, CHIP, which needs to be renewed every few years, was historically a bipartisan priority that legislators worked to renew far in advance. Researchers are still working on finding the impacts of children’s enrollment rates with CHIP within these months of uncertainty.

 

Some analysts say that extending CHIP for 10 years instead of six would save the federal government much more money, but this deal is still a solid one. Also, one analyst suggested that the national anxiety over CHIP might have brought more attention to it in the long run. More people can now be aware of the program and what it does (and possibly be encouraged to enroll), and more people can communicate to lawmakers about the importance of keeping the program alive. States can also start brainstorming safeguards for future use, just in case we are faced with a similar situation in the future. The role of states is especially important since CHIP is based on an architecture of shared responsibility between the states and the federal government.

 

CHIP is the sort of program that we may not have heard enough about if not for events such as the most recent budget crisis. It is, however, a very important source of health insurance for many American children. On his show, host Jimmy Kimmel explains a bit more about CHIL and its significance to his family. As we celebrate the most recent news, we should look ahead and start planning for CHIP’s future, so that we don’t repeat history.

A Follow-Up on the Children’s Health Insurance Program

The NYTimes reports that a bill to refinance CHIP, the popular children’s health insurance program we discussed in a previous blog post, has moved from the Senate to the House of Representatives, only to get stuck in the latter. If this bill survives partisan gridlock, then its provisions would set aside more than $100 billion over the next five years for the nearly nine million children enrolled in this program.

 

Although the main architects of the Senate bill hailed it as a “prime example of what government can accomplish when both parties work together,” there are still many points of contention between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to healthcare spending. The only thing they seem to be able to agree on at the moment is the urgency of the situation.

 

Federal funding for CHIP expired a few days ago, and apparently, there is no way to predict when a bill might be ready to move on to the White House. Several states have already tapped into emergency federal provisions in order to offset spending while Congress deliberates. Three states are scheduled to run out of CHIP funds at the end of this year, and a total of 30 states will be out of cash by March 2018.

Children's Health Insurance: Legislation and Impact Today

On September 30th, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will be up for renewal in Congress, according to NPR. This “popular federal state-program” provides health insurance for more than 9 million children of families who may otherwise be unable to afford health care.

 

Some health experts fear that CHIP’s deadline will fall by the wayside while Congress deals with urgent matters in providing relief for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In addition, they also fear that fierce division within Congress and budget-related government shutdowns could push CHIP down the priority list. As a result, states would be left with no choice but to start scaling down the reach of CHIP, leaving many children without health insurance at a point in their lives when regular healthcare is crucial.

 

Among the multiple reasons for the importance of CHIP, one that stands out is the population of children it affects the most. The children who currently benefit from this program come from families who are in lower- or middle-income brackets but do not qualify for Medicaid. As a result, they may be forced to pay more medical bills out of pocket, increasing health and economic insecurities among this population.

 

Since its adoption in 1997, CHIP has enjoyed bipartisan support, and has been a big factor in the reduction of uninsured children from 13.9 percent in 1997 to 4.5 percent in 2015. Its impact is universally acknowledged, but up for immediate debate are the enhancements the 2010 Affordable Care Act added to CHIP. The ACA increased federal spending for CHIP by 23 percentage points, but “forbid states to restrict eligibility rules.” However, like the ACA as a whole, these enhancements may be changed in the near future.

 

The need to renew and secure CHIP’s future is urgent. Without congressional action, several states could run out of CHIP funding as soon as next year. While CHIP could be reauthorized “with no strings attached,” its uncertainty means that parents, health care providers, and community members should stay aware of its status. This is crucial if we believe, as we do here at CHIL, that the health of children is a bipartisan, long-term priority.