Washington, DC— Five years after President Barack Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) into law, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a revised policy statement that analyzes the evolution of the program and makes recommendations to keep the program strong for children and families.
First enacted in 1997 as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the program was renamed CHIP as part of President Obama’s reauthorization on Feb. 4, 2009. The program has grown to finance health coverage for nearly 8 million children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but whose employers may not pay for health coverage for dependents.
The AAP celebrates the success of the program while also identifying challenges for moving forward.
“CHIP has improved three important aspects of children's health: access to coverage for medical services, utilization of those services, and the health of millions of children who have benefitted from the program,” said Andrew D. Racine, MD, PhD, FAAP, lead author of the AAP policy.
In 2012, Medicaid and CHIP provided health insurance to more than 50 percent of children in the United States, making both programs combined the largest insurer of U.S. children. Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorized CHIP through 2019, the program is only funded through September 2015. In order to keep CHIP strong for children, the AAP urges Congress to fully fund the program through at least 2019.
“Uninsured children are three times more likely than children with insurance to lack access to a needed prescription medicine, and five times more likely to have an unmet need for medical care,” said AAP President James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP. “CHIP is critical in helping to ensure no child falls through the cracks and all children have access to the high-quality, affordable health insurance they need and deserve.”
Since the program’s enactment in 1997, the number of uninsured children has been cut in half, while the number of uninsured adults rose significantly. In addition, the reauthorization of the program in 2009 included several improvements, such as age-appropriate health benefits including dental, mental health and substance abuse services to the same extent as medical and surgical treatment, and a $225 million investment in child health quality improvement.
“CHIP works. It’s that simple,” said Dr. Racine. “Eight million children across the country rely on CHIP to meet their needs, and we owe it to them to make sure the program continues.”
The AAP policy statement offers the following recommendations to strengthen CHIP for children:
• Fully fund CHIP at least through 2019.
• Expand awareness of CHIP among eligible families.
• Facilitate enrollment in CHIP for eligible children.
• Maximize comprehensive coverage and affordability for children in CHIP.
• Support the quality measurement provisions established in CHIPRA.
• Ensure adequate payment for physicians who care for CHIP patients.
“As we approach the five-year anniversary of CHIPRA, we owe tremendous thanks to Sens. Rockefeller, Hatch and Wyden and Reps. Upton and Waxman for their leadership in working to keep CHIP strong for children,” said Dr. Perrin. “Now it's up to Congress to continue this bipartisan investment by reauthorizing CHIP without delay.”
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.