CHIP funded through 2017 but future still uncertain

The Obama administration last week extended the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two additional years, but the program's future is still up in the air as lawmakers and administrators determine whether or how to continue it, reported Governing.

CHIP was set to expire in September, leaving about 2 million children without health insurance. Some lawmakers want CHIP to end, believing the insurance program isn't necessary because Affordable Care Act subsidies would allow many CHIP families to enroll their children in plans sold on health insurance exchanges.

Other lawmakers want to keep CHIP in place but provide changes to the program. Republicans, in particular, have suggested scaling down the program to stop covering children with families earning more than 300 percent of the poverty line and reducing benefits for families at or above 250 percent.

But CHIP advocates say the program must continue, because exchange plans include expensive out-of-pocket costs that are too costly for families with children enrolled in CHIP right now. In fact, the Government Accountability Office found that CHIP plans are almost always less expensive than similar exchange plans, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

"Moving to the exchange would definitely mean higher cost-sharing [and] higher out-of-pocket costs, and it could result in some disruption of care if the plans didn't have the same provider types," Lisa Lee, Kentucky's CHIP director, told Governing.

CHIP supporters also say that the program offers broader benefits for its members than exchange plans. For example, many exchange plans limit coverage for audiology services, over-the-counter medications, speech therapy and other specialties. But CHIP plans offer eyeglasses for free for many members.

Regardless of the program's future, CHIP has proven to be successful. Forty percent of children are now insured through the program, and Florida has reduced the number of uninsured children by 50 percent since 2008.

To learn more:
- read the Governing article