Family physicians proudly provide the health care that millions of America's children need. So it's no surprise that the AAFP joined 50 other organizations in asking key U.S. Senate and House members to begin now on work to extend funding the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) into the future.
As the organizations stated in an Oct. 14 letter,(3 page PDF) the federal funding authorization for CHIP will expire on Sept. 30, 2017, unless Congress approves an extension.
The letter noted the great success of CHIP in ensuring health care coverage for America's children and pregnant women by "giving states the ability to provide coverage that meets the needs of families who are employed but still make too little to afford private insurance."
CHIP has enjoyed strong bipartisan support and its health plans cover "what children need" in terms of appropriate physicians, hospitals and "medically and developmentally appropriate care."
Furthermore, said the letter, 19 states utilize CHIP to provide prenatal care to women who otherwise might not have access to these essential care services.
"If CHIP funding is not extended beyond 2017, many CHIP-enrolled children and pregnant women would likely become underinsured or uninsured altogether, which would threaten their access to care and the historic gains made insuring children over the past two decades."
"Children would lose ground if funding for CHIP is not extended," said the organizations.
The organizations made a strong case for their early outreach to Congress, noting that although states have significant leeway in designing their CHIP programs, most state budgets take effect in July and "budget development for 2017 is already well underway."
The organizations reminded the congressional leaders that in past years, when the federal CHIP funding stream was up in the air, "states began implementing procedures to disenroll children and place eligible children on waiting lists well in advanced of anticipated funding shortfalls."
They argued that unless Congress acts quickly, states could once again take similar action and cause millions of children and their families to lose access to health care services.
The organizations asked Congress to "provide long-term stability for children's health programs" and give states the confidence to move forward in their fiscal planning.
The letter was addressed to Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and ranking committee member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton, R-Mich., and ranking committee member Frank Pallone, D-N.J.
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Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)