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The Children’s Health Insurance Program: Quality Child-Centered Healthcare Critical for Early Development

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was enacted with broad bipartisan support in 1997 to provide funding to states to reduce the numbers of uninsured children in the United States. CHIP focuses on low-income children in working families who do not have access to employer-based coverage, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Before its enactment, over 23% of low-income children were uninsured. Today only 5% of children remain uninsured.
CHIP provides healthcare coverage that is necessary for a child’s early development.  For the first 10000 days of a child’s life, access to quality, pediatric-centered healthcare is critical for their brain development and soci0-emotional well-being.  Health plans offered through CHIP are specifically designed for children, with a long track record of recognizing their unique developmental needs, providing regular wellness visits, developmental screenings and immunizations.  Decades of data tells us, access to early, quality healthcare has predictive short and long-term educational outcomes for a child’s success in school. It is important to also recognize that the success of CHIP, rests on the shoulders on a robustly funded Medicaid program.  While 8.4 million children receive healthcare through CHIP, and additional 50 million children receive coverage from Medicaid. Together, more than 40% of US children depend on Medicaid and CHIP for their healthcare coverage.
CHIP also supports the financial stability of working families. Over 8 million children in working families are provided CHIP coverage because these families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to be able to purchase coverage on the private marketplace.
CHIP is often more affordable for working families in both premiums and out-of-pocket costs than most marketplace or employer-sponsored plans. CHIP also addresses the ‘family glitch’ that has been problematic with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Tax credit subsidies in the ACA are based on a sole single-earner, and do not consider the size of a family, creating a gap in affordable coverage. CHIP covers this gap, and serves children who would otherwise fall through the cracks.
Unfortunately, without action from Congress by September 30, 2017, funding for this critical program will run out for most states, putting millions of children at risk of losing healthcare coverage. The solution is simple. Per the recommendations of Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission created by Congress to advise its members on these important programs, funding for CHIP should be extended for an additional five years to ensure that low and moderate income children retain access to affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage.
CHIP is critical for early childhood well-being and development.  With continued coverage, working families will be healthier and more self-sufficient. United Way calls on Congress to continue bipartisan support for CHIP by reauthorizing program funding at current levels through 2022.  Let’s protect what works!