Enacted in 1997 by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health care coverage to 9 million U.S. children and pregnant women. The program is jointly funded by states and the federal government to provide coverage to uninsured children who are not eligible for Medicaid but whose families cannot afford private coverage. CHIP plans allow children to access pediatricians, pediatric specialists, and children’s hospitals. CHIP is particularly important in the lives of children facing life-threatening illnesses, like cancer, who would not have access to treatment without the program. Before the creation of the program, there were 10.7 million uninsured children. That number fell to 4.1 million in 2015, effectively lowering the uninsured rate for children ages 18 and under from 68% initially to approximately 5% today.
On September 30, 2017, federal funding for CHIP expired and Congress failed to reauthorize and renew long-term funding for the program. Without any kind of long-term extension for CHIP funding, states are not going to be able to offer any source of health care coverage for a number of families that already rely on the program’s services. Since CHIP’s expiration, Congress has passed two brief funding “patches,” which have allowed states to keep their programs afloat but on life support. In fact, a number of states are already prepared for programmatic changes and sending families notices that the program may soon be unavailable to them.
Without sustainable and predictable CHIP funding, children who were previously covered by the program may not be able to access health coverage or will be met with higher coverage costs through the Employer-Sponsored Insurance (ESI) or the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. Some children will be shifted to Medicaid coverage but 4 million children live in states where they could not access either program.
Leading children’s health, medical, and advocacy organizations around the country have designated today, January 10, 2018, as a National Day of Action to #SaveCHIP. Today, take a moment to call or email your federal legislators and ask them to extend current CHIP funding NOW. Use social media to reach out to members of congress, and share why CHIP is important to you using the hashtag #SaveCHIP. As we move into 2018, members of congress need to take action to guarantee funding so that families do not need to worry that their children will go a day without health care coverage.