On Saturday, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) celebrated its 20th birthday. Enacted with bipartisan support, CHIP provides coverage to children and pregnant women whose families have incomes above Medicaid eligibility.
While we herald the success and longevity of CHIP, the celebration is somewhat subdued because of uncertainty around the program’s future. On September 30, federal funding for CHIP will expire. If Congress does not extend funding by the end of September, three states and DC will be out of funds by December, and a majority of states will be out of funds by March.
With the recent attacks on Medicaid and the ACA, it is also critical that we protect and preserve children’s coverage the fray of other health care debates. Together, Medicaid and CHIP cover nearly 46 million low-income children. In 2016, the Children’s Health Insurance Program covered nearly 8.9 million kids, while Medicaid covered about 37 million. Medicaid and CHIP coverage have helped lower the uninsured rate for children to a historic low of 4.8 percent. Since these programs cover a disproportionate share of Black and Hispanic children, they are also an instrumental tool in reducing health disparities for children. Any policy changes that impose cuts on children’s health coverage programs could lead to disproportionate increases in the number of uninsured children of color and reverse our progress on health equity.
In the coming months, we must remind policymakers that CHIP rests on the coverage foundation Medicaid laid and provides a bridge to private insurance. Policymakers must protect children and low-income families by safeguarding these programs from harmful changes like capped funding. To assist you in your CHIP advocacy, Community Catalyst is launching a toolkit that includes tips for pivoting your coalition and assessing its skills and capacity, suggestions for preparing for this next fight and principles for safeguarding the program.