How officials address the uncertain future of CHIP

After the Obama administration extended the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another two years, officials already are looking ahead to 2017 and weighing options as to what to do should the program cease to exist.

CHIP plans--which cover some 8 million American children--are mostly generous, as the National Journal points out. CHIP covers services not typically covered by Affordable Care Act plans, such as pediatric hearing aids and habilitation care for kids who have developmental problems. Additionally, CHIP plans have minimal cost-sharing, while ACA plans typically have higher deductibles and copays.  

ACA plans also tend to have more narrow networks. Indeed, Washington's insurance commission was sued in 2013 by the Seattle Children's Hospital because many health plans didn't include the hospital in their networks, notes NJ.

Despite the coverage differences between CHIP and ACA plans, it's possible CHIP enrollees could be moved onto ACA plans. But as Anne Schwartz, Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission's executive director, said recently, "The question really arose, given the existence of subsidized exchange coverage, is CHIP still needed?"  

First Focus, an advocacy organization that works to ensure children's health needs are included in federal policies, seems to think so.

The group understands should the program be eliminated, the simple fix wouldn't be to transition CHIP enrollees onto ACA plans, the article says. So the group continues to brainstorm and lay out all of its options--from creating new requirements about what ACA plans cover and decreased cost-sharing for plans covering kids to offering CHIP as a plan on ACA's health insurance exchanges. Ultimately, First Focus wants to establish some model of legislation that avoids lawmakers automatically moving children onto ACA plans.

For more:
- here's the National Journal article