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Benso said the program is particularly important now, when so many parents are unemployed.

State CHIP program up for renewal

March 7, 2010

From the York Daily Record:

The way Dr. David Hawk sees it, the public's going to pay for uninsured children one way or another. 

If families don't have insurance, they're more likely to delay getting medical care for a child. They may put it off until a medical problem reaches an acute stage. That's when they end upin an emergency room, where the medical care ends up being a lot more expensive than early treatment would have been.
And if the families can't pay, hospitals end up eating the costs, which ultimately drives up the price of health care for everyone.

That's why Hawk hopes the state Legislature votes to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, next week. The York City Bureau of Health, where Hawk isdirector, provides services for free, so insurance isn't an issue. But as a member of the Healthy York County Coalition's steering committee, he believes CHIP provides a vital service.

"I believe very strongly that this is a great program for families so that children can access needed health care," Hawk said.

Rosanne Placey, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, said the CHIP program will end this year if the state Legislature doesn't renew it. Lawmakers are considering three pieces of legislation: One to renew it for three years, one to renew it for five years and one to renew it indefinitely. Since CHIP started in 1992, Placey said, it has had wide bipartisan support.

"We don't anticipate any issues with CHIP's continuation," she said.

Neither does Joan Benso, president of Pennsylvania Partnership for Children. But just to be on the safe side, her organization has started a campaign to publicize the program's imminent sunset date, and the importance of renewing it. 

"We're optimistic about the level of support, but this is not something to let drop off the radar," Benso said.

Benso said the program is particularly important now, when so many parents are unemployed. Ten years ago, she said, 100,000 children were in the program. The number of enrollees has nearly doubled since then, with much of the growth during the past couple years.

Still, Placey contends that the state would pay more for the care of those children if they ended up in emergency rooms for treatment.

"It would have a devastating impact on every community in this state if the program ended," she said.

About CHIP

Former Gov. Robert Casey signed the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, into law in 1992. It served as the model for the federal government's SCHIP model, authorized in 1997. Children and teens up to the age of 19 who are not eligible for other medical assistance can be insured through CHIP. Depending on family income, it can be free or come with monthly premiums or co-pays. There is no income limit for eligibility. The insurance comes through private providers. As of February, enrollment in the program was 196,220 in Pennsylvania, and 7,050 in York County. Gov. Ed Rendell has proposed increasing spending on the program by $26.8 million to a total of $437.3 million, and covering an additional 10,300 children.

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