Policy Alert

CHIP-ing Away At Health Care Coverage For Children

If funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is not extended by Congress this month, millions of children in the United States will be at risk of losing their health insurance coverage in just six months. Currently, 8.9 million children throughout the United States and between 60,000 and 70,000 children in Missouri have coverage through CHIP.

In 1997, CHIP was enacted by Congress with strong bipartisan support in order to provide health insurance coverage for children who were neither eligible for Medicaid nor employer-based insurance. At the time of CHIP’s enactment, 23% of low-income children living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level lacked insurance coverage. Since then, the percentage of uninsured children has plunged to 4.8%, both nationally and statewide, largely due to expansions in Medicaid and CHIP.

CHIP is a high-impact and cost-effective program. By promoting preventive services and primary care, CHIP has improved access to quality health care while simultaneously lowering costs for hospitals. Between 2000 and 2014, costly preventable hospitalizations for CHIP enrollees decreased by 28.9%, while emergency room visits decreased by 13.2%.

Public insurance programs such as CHIP play a critical role in addressing health, socioeconomic, racial, and geographic disparities. CHIP and Medicaid provide coverage to over 44% of children with special health care needs and disabilities. In rural areas, 77.1% of low-income children rely on public insurance coverage. Nationally, more than half of Black children (56%) and Hispanic children (52%) participate in public insurance programs.

In order to maintain hard-won gains in children’s health insurance coverage and the current near-universal insurance rate, Congress needs to reauthorize CHIP prior to its expiration on September 30, 2017. Gary Parker, director of the ClarkFoxPolicy Institute, stated, “Allowing CHIP to lapse would put the children of working families at risk while creating undue financial hardship for families across the state and country. Furthermore, the last 20 years of progress in increasing access to healthcare for children through CHIP would be effectively negated.”

Markovitz, L., True, S., Parker, G., Thurman, A., & McKay, M. (2017). CHIP-ing Away at Health Care Coverage for Children. St. Louis, MO: The Clark-Fox Policy Institute, Brown School at Washington University