Since its inception in 1997 and reform in 2009, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has made monumental gains in reaching children living in poverty across the nation and ensuring that they grow up to be healthy and successful adults. According to our Family Bottom Line Report, eligibility levels for CHIP come much closer to taking into account what a family actually needs to make ends meet amidst economic insecurity compared to other programs intended to meet children’s basic needs. In Nebraska, families with incomes of up to 200% of the poverty level, or about $48,000/year for a family of four, are eligible for health insurance coverage through this program.
Federal funding for CHIP is up for reauthorization on September 30 of this year, and a 2-year extension bill will be considered by the House soon. For countless reasons, it is critically imperative that Congress move forward with this reauthorization. Nationally, CHIP has reduced the rate of uninsured children from 14% to just 7%. According to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, 31,803 children were enrolled in CHIP in Nebraska on an average month during the fiscal year 2013. This is not where the accomplishments of this program end.
A report released by First Focus highlights the importance of CHIP for children living in rural areas. Children from rural areas are more likely than those in urban areas to rely on public insurance and this reliance has increased significantly since 2000. In Nebraska 42,876 children live in rural areas and 30% of these children rely on public insurance coverage to obtain necessary health services. CHIP has also made significant progress in reducing disparities in access to health care. As a consequence of economic instability, children of color are more likely to be uninsured and not get the health care that they need during critical developmental years. In a New York study of children before and during enrollment in CHIP, statistically significant racial/ethnic disparities in access to a usual source of care, unmet needs, and continuity of care were all essentially eliminated.
The impact that CHIP has on children’s lives across the country extends beyond just greater access to regular, adequate health care. In addition to increased access to coverage, better outcomes, better out-of-pocket protection, and increased parent confidence, a report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that CHIP also decreased educational disparities and increased higher educational attainment, which often leads to greater financial stability and societal contribution.
Having access to quality health care sets children up to have access to all other opportunities that they deserve including education, general well-being, and economic stability. To ensure prosperous futures for children, we must urge Congress to reauthorize CHIP funding. Yesterday, H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Re authorization Act of 2015 was introduced in Congress. If you wish to see CHIP reauthorized, please take action and contact the Nebraska Representatives to the House (Jeff Fortenberry, Adrian Smith, Brad Ashford) and express the importance of reauthorizing CHIP.
UPDATE: Yesterday (March 26) the House passed H.R. 2 on a 397-32 vote. Thank you to Congressman Fortenberry, Congressman Ashford, and Congressman Smith for voting in favor of the legislation.