Working families ought to be able to afford insurance on the private markets. Today, unfortunately many can’t. Enter CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
What is CHIP?
CHIP is short for the Children’s Health Insurance Program – Pennsylvania’s program to provide health insurance to uninsured children and teens who are not eligible for Medical Assistance. CHIP covers kids whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but who can’t afford private insurance. This is increasingly a problem as healthcare costs continue to rise under Obamacare.
How does CHIP funding work?
CHIP is a block grant program. This means Congress must act periodically to extend funding for the program. It serves nearly 9 million kids each year. States receive an allotment based on projected expenditures and generally have two years to spend their allotment. Unspent funds go into a redistribution pool.
When will CHIP run out of funds?
- Funding for CHIP expired on September 30, 2017. PA was able to continue to operate our programs in the short term with leftover funds from 2017.
- Just before the December recess, Congress approved $2.85 billion in CHIP funding in a “patch” as part of the Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires January 19. The CR also changed the way that redistribution funds are awarded to states, no longer guaranteeing a specific share to any state.
- If Congress fails to approve long-term funding for CHIP in January, 1.7 million children in separate CHIP programs in 21 states could lose coverage by the end of February 2018. As February 1 approaches and Congress has still not taken action, some states are likely to send notices to families alerting them that their child’s coverage is in jeopardy and may begin procedures to freeze enrollment.
- In March, Pennsylvania will be in shortfall position. Without sufficient funding to cover March expenditures, we will be unable to cover children beyond February without accessing redistribution funds.
Someday I would love nothing more than for CHIP to exist as a rarely used safety net no longer needed in the widespread numbers it is today. Meaning, today with healthcare so un-affordable for large segments of working class families not eligible for medicaid who still can’t afford private coverage – the need unfortunately remains. This is a failure of the healthcare system in general. The goal ought to be getting working families OFF assistance simply because they no longer need it. We accomplish that by making healthcare premiums affordable. That’s the long term fix.
But in the immediate term, with this not being reality – CHIP remains an absolutely crucial tool for working families. Parents across the state (many I know personally) literally now scrambling. The uncertainty is hugely disruptive. This has to get addressed.
Congress must act now. Continued delay is unacceptable. We need a bi-partisan solution to this and we need it right now. There is no excuse. Partisan bickering equals uncertainty for 1000’s of Pennsylvania families surrounding their children’s health resulting potentially in higher health care costs, added financial burdens, and in some cases – a complete loss of coverage for their children.