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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Growing Support for Congress to Extend CHIP in the Lame Duck Session

Shannon Attanasio

Senior Director of Government Affairs

After the November elections, Congress will return for a final legislative session before closing out the 113th Congress. As a part of any year-end, must-move legislation, this session should include a four-year extension of CHIP—the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP provides affordable, high-quality health insurance for 8 million low- to moderate-income children. 

Pressure on Congress to renew funding for CHIP is building

The drumbeat for Congress to extend CHIP continues to grow louder. Earlier this month, 1,200 national, state, and local organizations—including Families USA and many of our partners—sent a letter to congressional leaders in both the Senate and the House asking that they include a four-year extension of CHIP in the next legislative vehicle to move before the end of this session. One reason for the focus on action during the lame duck session is to ensure that states can continue to operate their programs without interruption. 

Editorial boards across the country are also calling for Congress to extend CHIP so that our country does not lose the significant gains we’ve made in children’s health coverage over the past 17 years. 

Today, Families USA is launching an initiative to build support for CHIP funding. Visit our CHIP page to learn more about the fight for CHIP and how to get involved. We've created shareable graphics with messages about CHIP funding to post on social media, a collection of the best research on the benefits of CHIP, and other resources to make the case for supporting CHIP.

Millions of children rely on CHIP and would lose health coverage if Congress does not renew the program

For nearly two decades, CHIP has been a critical source of health coverage for children—offering affordable, high-quality care that is specifically designed to meet the health needs of the children it serves. New data from the Pew Charitable Trusts underscore the importance of the CHIP program: Pew reports that CHIP’s total enrollment grew by 32 percent from 2005 to 2012. 

Without an extension of funding, millions of children would lose affordable health coverage because of what is called the family glitch. This loophole in the health care law prevents children and their  families from getting tax credits (financial assistance to help pay for health care) for marketplace health plans when a parent has an offer of coverage that’s considered affordable for the parent—usually through work—even when that coverage is not actually affordable for the whole family. 

Monthly premiums and cost-sharing (deductibles, copayments, etc.) amounts in CHIP are very reasonable. CHIP limits the out-of-pocket health care costs that families have to pay to 5 percent of their income. 

If Congress does not renew CHIP, many families would face much higher health care costs. One study found that families may pay as much as 10 times more, on average, for their children’s health care in a marketplace plan than they do in CHIP. Furthermore, CHIP’s benefits are generous and age-appropriate for children. The services that CHIP covers—including, but not limited to dental care, vision care, and hearing exams—were specifically designed to meet the special health care needs of children. 

Successfully extending CHIP funding will require bipartisan support in Congress

From CHIP’s inception in 1997, the program has enjoyed solid support from both Democrats and Republicans. Renewing CHIP funding will depend on bipartisan support to continue past 2015. 

We urge advocates to contact their members of Congress today and ask that a four-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program be included among the must-pass legislation for the lame duck session of Congress. Low- and moderate-income families should not have to worry about whether their children’s health coverage is protected.

To learn more about the Children’s Health Insurance Program, check out Families USA’s new CHIP page.