As of September 30, 2017, a U.S. Congress pre-occupied with unsuccessful efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act allowed the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provided low-cost health insurance to 9 million children, to expire.
The 105th Congress created the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) back in 1997. It started as $40 billion worth of block grants for states to use over 10 years. At that time, states could use the assistance to either extend their existing Medicaid programs or create stand-alone programs. Georgia created a stand-alone program, according to GeorgiaVoices.org.
Almost a decade later, states found their needs were exceeding the capacity of the initial grants. In 2006 and 2007, Congress increased funding for the program, but was unable to find Executive Branch support for reauthorization.
In 2009, the program was at last reauthorized as “CHIPRA” (Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act). The reauthorization included increased funding and a number of provisions to improve enrollment, quality of care and data collection. The reauthorization, however, expired at the end of 2013, but support was extended through The Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The ACA was passed in 2010, extending CHIP funding until September 30, 2015 (the end of Fiscal Year 2015). The ACA also raised the eligibility levels for Medicaid enrollment starting January, 2014 to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which shifted some children from CHIP into Medicaid.
The costs to families were nominal. According to the government’s healthcare website, healthcare.gov, routine “well child” doctor and dental visits are free under CHIP. But there may be co-payments for other services. Some states, like Georgia with its PeachCare For Kids Program, charge a monthly premium for CHIP coverage. The costs are different in each state, but families wouldn’t have to pay more than 5 percent of total family income for the year.
Although States still have some CHIP money available in various amounts, if Congress does not act quickly to restore the program, the funding will soon run out completely, ultimately gutting the program of its most crucial services including routine checkups, immunizations, dental and vision care and emergency services.