Little Cause for Celebration: CHIP Families Could Get Termination Notices as Program Turns 25

Congress must prioritize CHIP funding extension before funds run out in 2018

The Pennsylvania Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) turns 25 tomorrow but instead of celebrating, families of the more than 178,000 children currently enrolled face uncertainty and possible termination of coverage notices if Congress fails to extend funding that expired on September 30th.

At an event at the Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey today, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President & CEO Joan Benso and Teresa Miller, acting secretary of the Department of Human Services, urged Congress to pass legislation extending funding for the program. Pennsylvania receives 89 percent of its CHIP funding through the federal government.

“Pennsylvania’s CHIP program served as the model for the national program – the State Children’s Health Insurance Program – when it was enacted in 1997. My organization helped lead the charge when our state-only funded program was enacted in 1992, in 1997 when the federal law passed, and when Pennsylvania passed Cover All Kids in 2006. We are still fighting for children’s health coverage 25 years later, now urging state and federal policymakers to preserve this vital program,” Benso said.

“CHIP has a history of strong bipartisan support among Pennsylvania policymakers and the public, but families will be in crisis if federal funding is not extended. Children will be on the losing end of this proposition. Congress needs to act now to extend CHIP funding and give peace of mind to the parents of these kids and ensure that they will see no disruption in health care services in the new year.”

Benso noted that while Pennsylvania will not run out of funds to administer the program until February 2018, quick action is still needed to provide certainty to enrolled children and their families and ensure that coverage is not disrupted. In addition, state lawmakers must also act this year to reauthorize the program at the state level by December 31st.

She said it is critical to continue the partnership between Medicaid and CHIP in reducing the uninsured rate for children, which is just above 4 percent. In just five years, this rate was reduced by about 20 percent. More than 1.4 million or 46 percent of Pennsylvania children are insured through CHIP and Medicaid.

“We’ve reached an all-time low for the number of uninsured children in Pennsylvania,” Benso added. “We need to continue our progress, not go backward and certainly not to the extreme of having to notify families that their kids will lose CHIP coverage. There’s no reason why Congress can’t get this done very quickly.”

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is a strong, effective and trusted voice to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in the commonwealth. For 25 years, PPC’s public policy victories have helped countless children learn, thrive and succeed, regardless of circumstances. PPC is statewide, independent, non-partisan and non-profit.