Protecting CHIP: Critical to the Health of Kids and Teens in California and Across the Country

By Lisa Eisenberg, Senior Policy Analyst, California School-Based Health Alliance

The new Congress will consider CHIP reauthorization beginning in February, 2015.

The new Congress will consider CHIP reauthorization beginning in January, 2015.

In January, a new Congress will convene in Washington, DC. Included in the long list of legislation they must consider is a program of critical importance to school-based health care—the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Enacted in 1997, CHIP is a vital source of health coverage for eight million children nationwide, who come from families with low to moderate incomes. Funding for CHIP will expire September 30, 2015, unless Congress acts to reauthorize the program.

So what’s at stake? Together with Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, CHIP has helped cut the rate of uninsured children in my state by half, an impressive statistic that applies nationally, as well. For our state and other states, CHIP ensures that children from families with low to moderate incomes have access to health coverage at much lower costs than would otherwise be available to them.

As advocates for school-based health centers (SBHCs), we know how important health coverage and access to health care is for students. For example, uninsured children are over 13 times more likely to lack a usual source of care. Because health is a fundamental component of children’s overall well-being, poor health negatively impacts many areas of children’s development, including academic achievement. It is critically important that children continue to have access to the affordable health coverage that federal programs like CHIP provide.

In this post-health reform world, some policymakers may be tempted to ask: Is CHIP still necessary? While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has provided many individuals and families access to affordable health coverage, there is still a strong need to continue funding CHIP. Recent analyses have shown that not all children currently covered by CHIP would be eligible for subsidized coverage in the exchanges, and, without CHIP, families would be required to spend significantly more in out of pocket expenses to obtain the same level of care through an exchange plan.

The California School-Based Health Alliance, along with many other children’s health advocates, urged our state governor to respond to a Congressional request for input on CHIP reauthorization. We are pleased that, in October, California Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley responded to this request with clear support for reauthorization. California joined 38 additional states in expressing strong support for maintaining the integrity of CHIP, and calling for swift reauthorization.

All advocates for children’s health need to speak up for CHIP reauthorization. You can sign this petition to tell Congress that you support CHIP. Help us maintain this vital program for children’s health coverage!


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