Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) ended last Saturday, September 30. More than nine million children and their families who rely on CHIP for affordable health care are now at risk of losing their coverage. That’s more than nine million reasons Congress must act now to fund the program and protect kids’ current and future health.
CHIP has played a central role in closing the health care coverage gap for kids. Over the past 20 years, the uninsurance rate among children has dropped a whopping 67.9 percent, to a historic low of 4.8 percent. The program also plays a critical role in combating health disparities that harm children of color and connecting all children to the health care they need. Children of color and their families are more likely to experience economic disadvantages that make health insurance unaffordable, meaning CHIP can be a lifeline to affordable health care. In 2015, 21 percent of children covered by CHIP or Medicaid were African American and 37 percent were Latino.
In addition, in 19 states, CHIP also covers pregnant women, which is essential for the health of women and babies. Approximately 370,000 pregnant women receive care through CHIP each year. Uninsured pregnant women are less likely to seek prenatal care in the first trimester and to receive the optimal number of visits during their pregnancy, which is associated with higher rates of infant and maternal mortality.
Research confirms that health insurance plays a critical role in supporting children’s health and well-being throughout their lives. Insured children are more likely to have a regular source of health care and thus, better health outcomes. Conversely, children without insurance are more likely to receive delayed or no care, increasing the risk of hospitalization for a health problem.
While it varies by state, at a minimum, CHIP covers well-baby and well-child visits; immunizations; hospital, surgical and medical services; developmental screenings and any necessary follow-up services; vision, dental and hearing assessments and necessary follow-up services; and laboratory, X-ray, dental and emergency services. These health services help children get and stay healthy.
CHIP also improves families’ economic security by giving low- and middle-income families that make too much to be covered by Medicaid an affordable option to purchase insurance for their kids. Without CHIP, these families would need to pay 6-7 times as much to purchase insurance through the marketplace or an employer-sponsored plan, which could severely threaten their economic security. For families of children with special needs, the costs could be even higher; some estimates conclude that these families would have to pay more than $10,000 annually for a plan on the health insurance marketplace. Families need CHIP so they don’t have to choose between health care for their children and other necessities like food and utilities.
Congress: Act now and fund CHIP fully. More than 9 million kids, and millions of families, are depending on you.