With 2015 and the 114th Congress underway, it is time to get thinking seriously about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP serves about 8 million kids nationally, providing them with benefits similar or equivalent to Medicaid, in some cases including early periodic screening, diagnosis, and treatment (EPSDT), the gold standard of children’s coverage.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) funds CHIP through the end of federal fiscal year 2015—that’s September 30 of this year. For the program to continue, Congress must approve new funds before this deadline. This might sound like a lot of time, but in reality, this federal deadline is not the only factor at play: state budgets for 2016 are being developed and must be finalized well before September, and governors need to know the future of the federal funds upon which CHIP relies before their budget cycles end. (P.S., Look here to see if your governor sent comments to Congress about the importance of CHIP in your state.)
In case you need a refresher on the importance of CHIP for its 8 million enrollees, now is a great time to brush up on the case for CHIP. Here is the highly abridged version: on average, for kids who are eligible for CHIP, it is their best coverage option in terms of benefits, affordability, and network adequacy. CHIP is also a crucial backstop for families that might otherwise be subject to the family glitch, which prevents dependents from obtaining tax credits for Marketplace coverage in some cases. Moreover, we are learning more about the effects of unstable coverage on families, and it will come as no surprise that uncertainty about the future of CHIP can be a major challenge for families.
Over the coming months, we will post periodically with updates and reminders of the many reasons we need Congress to act to continue CHIP. With your help, we can ensure that children continue to have access to this successful program that provides them the high-quality coverage they need.