With a funding deadline looming for a health program that's an essential doorway to primary care for millions of children and pregnant women, the AAFP and other organizations are giving Congress a push to act immediately.
The AAFP and more than 130 other organizations issued a statement(5 page PDF) Sept. 6 calling on legislators to save the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) from chaos and families from confusion by extending the program's funding for five years before it expires on Sept. 30.
"CHIP has a proven track record of providing high-quality, cost-effective coverage for low-income children and pregnant women in working families," the organizations said. "CHIP was a smart, bipartisan solution to a real problem facing American children and families when it was adopted in 1997, and its importance and impact in securing a healthy future for children in low-income families has only increased."
Since its launch, CHIP, together with Medicaid, has helped reduce the number of uninsured children by 68 percent. Now 95 percent of all children in the United States are enrolled in some form of health insurance.
But time to protect these gains is quickly running out. States have already established their budgets, so if federal funding for CHIP is not maintained, they will have to create waiting lists and send disenrollment notices to families.
"Extending CHIP is particularly important in light of the ongoing debate on and uncertainty regarding the future of the (Patient Protection and) Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and the stability of the individual insurance markets," the organizations said. "With state budgets already set for the coming year, states are counting on CHIP to continue in its current form."
Nearly 9 million children whose families could not otherwise afford health insurance have access to health care because of CHIP. The program also enables pregnant women in 19 states to obtain the health care they need to have healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy infants. Many families covered by the program have incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid.
CHIP remains one of the strongest examples of health care legislation enacted with support from both sides of the aisle. Now the AAFP and others are asking Congress to build on that success.
"As Congress continues to work on larger health system reforms, a primary goal should be to improve health coverage for children, but at a minimum, no child should be left worse off," the organizations said. "We urge our nation's leaders to work together to enact a five-year extension of CHIP funding as an important opportunity for meaningful, bipartisan action."
Family physicians can add their weight to the advocacy effort by joining a Speak Out campaign to call on their legislators to extend CHIP funding.
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Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)