All That and a Bag of CHIP(s)

By: Alyssa Potts

In recent months, you have probably heard on the news station or read in the newspaper about something called “CHIP.” If you’re like me, you probably questioned what chips had to do with kids and healthcare and why you should care about it. Of course, I soon figured out that everyone was referring to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This past September, CHIP funding lapsed causing a great amount of stress for families across the country. CHIP is a program that was implemented in 1997 and covers 9 million children nationwide, as well as over 370,000 pregnant women, per year. The program covers children up until the age of 19. This program is so important and needed because it helps lower- and middle-income families who are ineligible for Medicaid acquire health insurance for their children. CHIP, which may go by a different name depending on the state, is low-cost insurance for families with incomes too high for Medicaid, but potentially too low to afford private insurance plans. The program covers routine check-ups, doctor visits, prescriptions, emergency services, and hospital care, among other things.

You might be asking yourself, “Well, why do people need help from the government if they make more than is allowed to be eligible for Medicaid?” The answer is simple: medical care in the United States is extremely expensive. Especially for families of children with chronic illnesses or severe injuries that require long-term medical care. Roughly 2 million CHIP enrollees have one of six chronic health conditions: asthma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, mood disorders, and developmental disorders such as autism. Many of these conditions can be deadly if appropriate and timely treatments are not given, and all of them require several costly doctors visits per year, which add up, not even including the cost of therapies and prescriptions that each of these disorders require. A family who, without the medical bills, would be living somewhat comfortably, often finds themselves struggling financially after having to seek medical treatment for their children. Often, when families who are eligible for Medicaid receive an increase in income, such as a bonus at work, they quickly become ineligible, even if they are barely over the threshold limit to qualify. CHIP allows the children to still have sufficient and affordable health insurance and allows parents to rest a little bit easier knowing that their child can receive the healthcare that they need. When a child doesn’t have health insurance, his or her parents are often forced to forego doctors appointments and needed medical care because they simply cannot afford it. This is dangerous, and in some cases, deadly. Under CHIP, routine check-ups and dental visits are free, but there are often co-payments for other services. In some states, a monthly premium is charged, but it never exceeds 5% of a family’s yearly income. There is absolutely no reason that access to healthcare should be an issue for a child in a country as developed as ours.

Thankfully, in February our Senate was able to reach a budget agreement that funds the program for another 10 years. However, what happens if the budget is threatened again 10 years from now? Hopefully this past impasse with the government has brought CHIP the attention it deserves, and people will continue to fight for this program in the future. It is so incredibly important that we as a country take care of the kids who need help. They are our future, after all.

For more information on CHIP and its eligibility requirements, visit https://www.medicaid.gov/chip/index.html.