The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or later more simply known as Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was created in 1997 to insure children in families with modest income, too high to qualify for Medicaid, and too little to afford private insurance. This is the largest taxpayer-funded health insurance in the United States since Medicaid had started in the 1960s. Sponsored by Ted Kennedy in partnership with Orrin Hatch, it was passed during the Clinton administration, with much support coming from the First Lady at that time. Efforts to expand this were vetoed during the Bush administration, but on February 4, 2009, President Obama had signed the
Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009. This will now finance CHIP through the year 2013, will preserve coverage for those already under the program, and will also provide coverage for millions of uninsured children. Over 33 billion were added to the federal fund to ensure coverage for an additional 4.1 million children for the next four and a half years.*
States are given the flexibility to design the eligibility requirements under broad federal guidelines. Even the benefit design is also very flexible, according to what each state may need, but must be according to some set standards. On average, 30 percent is paid for by state government while the rest of the 70 percent is paid for by the federal government. It was also designed so that the available funds from states that did not spend the full federal allotment may be redistributed to states who may have a need for them. This program has been successful in that since 1997, enrollment has increased to 6.1 million children since 2005. This was even complemented by an increase of children insured by Medicaid from 1997 to 2004. Hence, from 1997 to 2005, the percentage of uninsured children dropped from 22.3 percent to 14.9 percent.**
The economic downturn has left everyone in a bind, with lawmakers recognizing that there are budget gaps and more parents and children needing medical coverage. The harsh reality is that the awareness for the need for these children is there, but the resources to push through with the assistance that the state could provide are very low.
With the presence of CHIP, more children are eligible for coverage, but the problem is getting the message across to their parents. Some of the families who never needed this type of service or help from the government are precisely the people for whom this program is for. Simplification of application procedures and expansion of eligibility requirements are two of the things that could greatly help these people to get them covered. Communicating to the parents is the first step for the success of this program. States recognize this fact and they are now looking to work on outreach programs in order to give out the necessary information to the parents.
Streamlining application processes and renewals will also greatly help more people to enroll. Tapping tax records are also helping states to determine how to reach eligible families who have not yet enrolled themselves into the program. Suggestions to have the same eligibility requirements for a larger age group instead of age brackets may also be one solution to ease parents’ frustrations on eligibility issues.
** Lambrew, Jeanne M. “The State Children’s Health Insurance Program: Past, Present and Future”