PA touts success of children’s health insurance program / Public News Service

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, covering low-income children across the country, turns 25 in August, but Pennsylvania has had its own “CHIP” for even longer – and it has been used as a model for the program federal.

CHIP was launched in Pennsylvania five years earlier than the national program. CHIP allows states to cover children when parents cannot afford private health insurance.

Today, said Antoinette Kraus, executive director of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Health Access Network, about 136,000 Commonwealth children are enrolled in CHIP, which is a slight decrease from previous years.

“We think it’s because right now we’re still in the midst of a public health emergency,” she said, “so a lot of kids are on Medicaid with their families and they cannot be cut off from coverage during this time. So we expect that when the public health emergency ends, many children will transition from Medicaid to CHIP.”

Indeed, in Pennsylvania, CHIP can cover any uninsured child who is not eligible for the state’s Medical Assistance or Medicaid program. The current end date for the public health emergency is October 13, although it may be extended.

The Pennsylvania Health Access Network helps families find health services that fit their budget. Kraus said a persistent barrier they see is that parents don’t always know the income eligibility requirements for CHIP and assume they can’t afford it.

“But really,” she says, “for very low-income parents — if you’re making $21,000 to $28,000 and you have a child under five, or you’re making $18,000 or $28,000 and your child is between six and 18 – CHIP is free for them.”

Kraus added that Pennsylvania has one of the lowest rates of uninsured residents in its history, for both adults and children. She credited a combination of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and CHIP. However, a 2019 report showed that 4.6% of children in the state were still uninsured.

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