The Fate of CHIP: 17 Legislative Days Till CHIP Funding Expires


After a busy spring and summer on Capitol Hill, the halls of Congress are quiet this week. But that will change very quickly when Members return on September 5th. Pundits of every stripe have been attempting to predict Congress’s legislative priorities for the fall session. Those of us in the child advocacy community are laser-focused on the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a critical health insurance program for almost 9 million children in low-income children in working families. CHIP is on a short-list of must-pass legislation pending before Congress this fall. Federal funding for CHIP runs out on September 30th. [Read: Key Facts About CHIP]

CHIP is a popular and well-respected program with a long history of bipartisan support at the community, state and national levels. People most often know CHIP by its state-specific name, such as PeachCare in Georgia, BadgerCare Plus in Wisconsin or SoonerCare in Oklahoma. It is operated through the states, but funded through a joint federal-state partnership. CHIP provides kids with well-child care, hospitalization coverage, mental health, dental care and other necessary benefits. This provides a certain peace of mind to families who lack an offer of job-based insurance for their kids, don’t qualify for Medicaid, or aren’t able to afford private coverage on their own.

Parents aren’t the only ones satisfied with CHIP coverage: mayors, school nurses and principals have also praised the program. CHIP’s support comes from state legislators and governors, and that carries right through to the U.S. Capitol, where many members of Congress, former governors and state legislators themselves, know the importance of CHIP in their states.

CHIP has an amazing track-record of success. Together with Medicaid it has helped reduce the number of uninsured kids by more than 67 percent. Between Medicaid and CHIP programs in states, children are now covered with health insurance at the highest rate ever seen — more than 95 percent. We know this coverage means they will be more likely to graduate high school, miss fewer days of school due to illness and injury, and are likely to be healthier as adults. Kids with health concerns like asthma spend less time in the hospital and are healthier after just one year on CHIP.

Despite CHIP’s success in covering kids and popularity among Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, CHIP is facing a critical deadline. There are only 17 legislative days until federal funding for CHIP expires. Without action by Congress many states will have no choice but to freeze their programs or place kids on waiting lists. This disruption in coverage can be avoided but only if Congress acts quickly.

There are many must-pass items on Congress’s to-do list this fall, but none more critical that renewing CHIP funding. Children’s coverage has been waiting patiently in line for action as Congress focused attention this spring and summer on the ACA repeal and Medicaid cuts. CHIP – more importantly states and families – can’t wait any longer. Now is the time for Congress, who often tout their dedication and commitment to children, to put their money where their mouths are, and renew CHIP funding for five more years. No child should face disruptions in coverage – especially as they start a new school year – because Congress failed to make their coverage a priority. Please, Congress, let’s do this. Let’s show that when it comes to the health and well-being of children, our nation’s leaders can make good things happen.