The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Children’s health is at stake unless both parties come together


A vote on a critical federal health care issue is looming, but it isn’t the one the country has debated for most of 2017. This upcoming issue is so important for children that those of us in pediatrics hope it passes without much debate at all.

In this political climate nothing is certain.

{mosads}The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health insurance for 8.9 million children. Since it began in 1997, CHIP has enjoyed broad support from Republicans and Democrats for simple reasons: It allows millions of children to have medical treatment when they are sick, and it helps them receive preventative care to keep them well.


More than a decade before anyone argued over ObamaCare or its repeal, both political parties stood together and approved CHIP. Federal funding for this important program will end on Sept. 30 unless legislators vote to reauthorize it.  

They must. Children will lose access to important health services without the program.

Medicaid covers approximately 30 million children, and it is the public insurance program most people are familiar with. CHIP covers children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but who do not have easy access to other health insurance. The parents in these families have jobs; 85 percent of the children in CHIP households have at least one parent working 50 weeks per year, according to numbers from the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, a non-partisan congressional agency.

Those jobs may not include employer-provided insurance, and they may not pay well enough for families to afford private insurance. Almost 89 percent of children covered by CHIP live in households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $49,200 for a family of four.

Before CHIP, 10 million children in the United States had no health insurance. By 2016, only 3.3 million were uninsured. The program is one of the key reasons a larger percentage of American children are insured than ever before.

What happens to CHIP-covered children if Congress does not vote for funding by Oct. 1? It depends on where the child lives. Arizona, Minnesota, North Carolina and Washington D.C. will run out of federal CHIP money by the end of 2017, according to government estimates. Most other states will run out by the end of March 2018.

Some children will lose health coverage soon afterward. Others will keep coverage for at least a year, but their states will have difficulty paying for it without federal CHIP funds. Those states may need to divert money from other important services to keep children covered.   

These negative consequences can be avoided if Congress votes to reauthorize CHIP funding soon. The previous extension was for two years; many of us in pediatrics believe a five-year extension at recent funding levels is important for the future of child health.                 

All children should have access to care. Quick action from legislators will ensure millions of children can keep the access they already have.

Steve Allen, M.D., is the CEO of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill


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