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Children’s Health Insurance Program Critical for Rural Kids

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was created in 1997 to provide health insurance coverage to U.S. children in families with an income too high to be eligible for Medicaid and inadequate to afford private health insurance. In Nebraska, children in families with incomes of up to 200% of the poverty level, or about $48,000 for a family of four, are eligible for health insurance through this program.  According to our Family Bottom Line Report, eligibility levels for CHIP are much closer to taking into account what a family actually needs to make ends meet than other programs that protect children for the impact of economic insecurity.  Access to health care for children is particularly important during critical developmental years, when health and developmental issues can be identified early and treated before they become more costly and complicated.

Federal funding for CHIP is up for reauthorization again on September 30, 2015. In determining where CHIP should go next, it is important to reflect on the impact that this program has already had on children and their families.

CHIP has been successful in reducing the number of uninsured children.  From the time CHIP began, the rate of uninsured children fell from 14% to just 7%. In Nebraska, during fiscal year 2012, 31,569 children were enrolled in CHIP according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

A new report released today by First Focus highlights the importance of CHIP for rural areas.  In Nebraska 42,876 of our children live in rural areas. This report found that the percent of children lacking health insurance coverage is the same for children in both urban and rural areas at 9 percent. However, in almost every state, children in rural areas that do have health insurance are more likely to receive coverage from public sources such as Medicaid and CHIP than children in urban areas. In Nebraska, 30.0% of children in rural areas rely on public insurance compared to the 27.2% of children in urban areas.

Furthermore, the percent of rural children receiving public health insurance has grown significantly since 2000, while the percent receiving private insurance has declined. In 2000, 28% of rural children received public health insurance, a number that increased to 47% in 2012.

This new report highlights why it is critically important for Nebraska and other rural states to preserve funding for CHIP and ensure that kids in rural areas can access the health services they need to become healthy and productive adults.

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