Did you know health insurance status is the single most important factor impacting children’s access to health care?
Kids who have insurance are more likely to be immunized, receive regular checkups and get prompt treatment for common childhood ailments. Pennsylvania is fortunate to have a strong bipartisan history of providing health care coverage to children through Medicaid and CHIP. Pennsylvania started one of the first children’s health insurance programs in the nation in 1992 to help provide quality coverage to children in working families with incomes above Medicaid levels, but insufficient to purchase private coverage. Federal CHIP was patterned after Pennsylvania’s successful program and funded for all states in 1997.
Because CHIP, in combination with Medicaid, was succeeding at providing health care coverage for children, the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) was built on top of it. The ACA authorized CHIP through 2019. But because CHIP is not an entitlement, funding is not permanent and is only authorized through September 2015. PPC is advocating that federal CHIP funding be extended, preferably to coincide with the 2019 reauthorization deadline.
We were pleased to see the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health hold a hearing on the future of CHIP on Dec. 3. Testifiers discussed how CHIP works and how the ACA has impacted the program. PPC has expressed concerns that without CHIP families would have to pay higher out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and co-pays, for similar coverage on the marketplace than they pay with CHIP. It is also important to note that if the program is not funded, the affordability test (the so-called “family glitch” in the ACA) would leave many children with no coverage options, as no subsidy would be available to purchase coverage on the marketplace. These points were raised by witnesses at the hearing as well.
Pennsylvanians are fortunate that U.S. Reps. Joe Pitts (PA-16) and Tim Murphy (PA-18) are members of the subcommittee and are very engaged in this issue. Both previously served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, so they understand the commonwealth’s program as well. Rep. Pitts, who serves as the subcommittee chairman, opened the hearing by noting: “In 1992, as a member of the state House of Representatives, I was proud to vote to create Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as PA CHIP.” He called for extending federal CHIP funding and said that even though funding won’t end until September, states need certainty sooner rather than later due to budgeting timelines.
Also during the hearing, a question from Rep. Murphy to a testifier verified that, without CHIP funding and with the existence of the family glitch, many children likely would lose health coverage. Rep. Murphy concluded his remarks by noting that “Pennsylvania’s CHIP program has demonstrated strong value” and rather than cut something that is working, Congress should learn from the program and ensure families don’t go without insurance.
PPC thanks Reps. Pitts and Murphy for their focus on this issue and thoughtful comments during the hearing. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on progress towards extending CHIP funding for the more than 150,000 Pennsylvania children that depend on it for their health care.
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