On September 30 of this year congress must act on whether or not CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan) is to be refunded!
What is CHIP?
CHIP is a mostly federally funded insurance program (about 87% federally funded) that provides coverage to over 9 million children in the United States. It is primarily intended for families in the lower to middle classes, meaning those who make enough income to not qualify for Medicaid, but would likely have difficulty affording private insurance. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that if CHIP were to have dramatic alterations that affect its reach that children who would lose coverage or move to an ineffectively expensive model would suffer. CHIP was founded in 1997, at which time 13.9% of American children were uninsured. This number has subsequently decreased to less than 5%.
I, amongst many others, believe it is imperative that congress passes a clean CHIP bill to allow for continued federal funding of CHIP without a significant amount of add-on clauses that would limit its reach. I can think of a multitude of scenarios directly from clinical experience where this would benefit children of lower to middle class families. We frequently encounter young patients with chronic illnesses in everyday practice that would greatly benefit from continuing CHIP. One example of a chronic illness would be asthma. Many families having children inflicted with this illness are covered by CHIP. When severe this tends to result in multiple hospitalizations, ICU stays or even death. These unfortunate outcomes are frequently avoided by dutiful use of prescription medications prescribed on an outpatient basis. Once asthma is staged as more severe, it requires more medication, which ultimately may be unaffordable on a private health insurance plan. If a family, who did not qualify for Medicaid, were to be denied CHIP, I can envision a scenario where many families would not be able to attain the appropriate medications. I can only imagine that this would continue to be a problem and would lead to further complications that may be avoidable.
If funding is not renewed, 31 states would completely run out of the federal funds provided for CHIP by March 2018 with Texas estimated to run out of funding in April 2018. This is an unpalatable fact for the current pediatric patients crucially supported by this program. Please write your local/federal representatives and encourage them to vote for re-funding CHIP without alterations.
Sam Hankins, MD
September 20, 2017