On Saturday, December 2nd, we celebrated CHIP’s 25th birthday in Pennsylvania.
PPC President & CEO Joan Benso fondly remembers gathering in the State Capitol Rotunda to join Governor Casey as he signed the CHIP statute into law on that day in 1992. Lucy Hackney, PPC’s founder, stood proudly behind Governor Casey and then state Rep. Allen Kukovich and Sen. Alyson Schwartz – the bill’s prime sponsors. It was one of the greatest moments in PPC’s 25-year history.
CHIP has always enjoyed strong bi-partisan policymaker support. Five governors and countless state legislators have continued to champion CHIP over these many years and thousands of children have benefited.
Pennsylvania’s CHIP program served as the model for the national program – the State Children’s Health Insurance Program or SCHIP – when it was enacted in 1997. PPC helped lead the charge when our state-only funded program was enacted in 1992; in 1997 when the federal law passed; and when Pennsylvania passed Cover All Kids in 2006.
Joan says that in all her years advocating for children’s health care, she has yet to meet a state or federal lawmaker who doesn't think CHIP is a program that works, who doesn't think CHIP is a program worthy of public funds and who doesn't think that a strong CHIP program shouldn't be in place for Pennsylvania's children.
So why are the parents of 178,000 children who rely on it for their children’s regular doctor visits, vision, dental and prescription coverage worried? Because, if Congress doesn’t act quickly, the families of these children won’t be receiving holiday greetings in the mail, they will be receiving coverage termination notices.
Teresa Miller, Acting Secretary of the Department of Human Services, this week said she has a draft letter sitting on her desk informing families that their coverage is being terminated – a letter she hopes she never has to send.
Approximately 96% of Pennsylvania children have health insurance. More than 1.4 million or 46% of Pennsylvania children are insured through CHIP and Medicaid. The rate of uninsured children in our state has dropped by 20% in the last five years and this is in part to CHIP as well as the reforms driven by the Affordable Care Act.
Pennsylvania must continue its progress, not go backward and certainly not to the extreme of having to notify the parents of 178,000 kids that their children will lose CHIP coverage. There’s just no reason why Congress can’t get this done very quickly – funding for the program expired two months ago on September 30th.
We hope our Congressional delegation does the right thing and gives peace of mind to the parents of CHIP kids so that they see no disruption in health care services in the new year.
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