Child Health

It’s Time to Make CHIP Permanent

August 11, 2021 | National

For nearly 25 years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been an essential source of children’s health coverage.  

CHIP ensures access to high-quality, affordable, pediatric-appropriate health care for children in working families whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to purchase private health insurance on their own. Since its creation, CHIP has helped reduce the number of uninsured children by more than 68 percent, from an uninsurance rate of nearly 15 percent in 1997 to less than five percent in 2016–while improving health outcomes and access to care for children and pregnant women. Together with Medicaid, CHIP has helped reduce racial disparities in health care coverage and access to services, improved continuity of care, and advanced health equity​. In 2019, more than half of children of color relied on Medicaid and CHIP as their source of health coverage.

Despite its success, CHIP continues to require action by Congress to maintain funding. It is the only federal health insurance program that depends on reauthorization votes and is subject to expiration. 

CHIP is often used as a bargaining chip on Capitol Hill, at risk of missed reauthorizations and funding deadlines and leaving children and pregnant people that receive health insurance through CHIP with the worry that their coverage may expire mid-year or mid-treatment.

We saw this in 2017 when Congressional inaction resulted in the expiration of CHIP funding for four months. For months leading up to this period and during the funding lapse, states were forced to make contingency plans for CHIP’s possible demise, advocates and lawmakers worked to extend funding, and most consequentially, families across the country received disenrollment notices as they faced an uncertain future about their children’s health care.

Making CHIP funding permanent would protect the health, security, and well-being of the ten million children and pregnant people currently enrolled in CHIP and ensure CHIP is no longer subjected to arbitrary deadlines and funding cliffs that lead to chaos, distress, and anxiety for families all across this country. 

The Children’s Defense Fund is proud to endorse two bills currently awaiting action by Congress that would finally make CHIP permanent, prevent future funding lapses, and protect a program that continues to play an essential role in children’s health coverage. 

Earlier this year, Representatives Lucy McBath (D-GA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) introduced the CARING for Kids Act (HR 66) to permanently extend funding for CHIP, and Representative Nanette Barragán introduced the CHIP Permanency (CHIPP) Act (HR 1791) to permanently extend funding for CHIP and also increase the upper income eligibility to 300 percent FPL (or $79,500 for a family of four in 2021). 

Enacting a permanent extension of CHIP will protect needed health coverage for ten million children and pregnant women and the CHIPP Act will also allow states to increase eligibility, helping to eliminate the lottery of geography that often excludes millions of children from critical care and jeopardizes their healthy development. 

We cannot continue to wait to permanently extend CHIP. More than 700,000 children lost health coverage between 2016 and 2019, even before our country began facing a devastating pandemic that has left more than 28 million Americans infected with COVID-19, including more than three million children. As we work to reverse course and get all eligible children covered, making CHIP permanent is critical so we can depend on it to always be there. Read more in the letter leading organizations sent in support of the CARING for Kids Act and the CHIP Permanency Act.