Pro­tect­ing ac­cess to CHIP is vi­tal for Penn­syl­va­nia

The Community Connection - - OPINION - Rep. Ryan Costello is a Repub­li­can who rep­re­sents Penn­syl­va­nia’s 6th Con­gres­sional District in parts of Berks, Ch­ester, Le­banon and Mont­gomery coun­ties, and is a mem­ber of the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee.

For two decades, the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram (CHIP) has of­fered vi­tal ser­vices to fam­i­lies across the coun­try, in­clud­ing right here in South­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia.

In fact, Penn­syl­va­nia launched statewide CHIP in 1992 and it has been rec­og­nized as the model for fed­eral CHIP, which launched five years later in 1997. CHIP pro­vides af­ford­able and com­pre­hen­sive med­i­cal, den­tal, vi­sion, and pre­scrip­tion cov­er­age for chil­dren un­der 19 whose fam­i­lies do not qual­ify for Med­i­caid but can­not ac­cess in­sur­ance through a pri­vate plan. By fill­ing this gap in in­sur­ance cov­er­age, CHIP has low­ered the num­ber of unin­sured chil­dren sig­nif­i­cantly, and pro­vides peace of mind and in­valu­able health cov­er­age for many fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing in our com­mu­nity. I have heard con­cerns from con­stituents re­gard­ing the avail­abil­ity and longevity of CHIP fund­ing, as the dead­line to reau­tho­rize the pro­gram was the end of Septem­ber. The ex­haus­tion of re­sources varies by each state, and the Med­i­caid and CHIP Pay­ment and Ac­cess Com­mis­sion (MACPAC) projects Penn­syl­va­nia’s funds will be de­pleted in Fe­bru­ary of 2018.

There is long­stand­ing bi­par­ti­san com­mit­ment to the pol­icy of CHIP, but cur­rently, there are a va­ri­ety of per­spec­tives in Con­gress as how to pay for CHIP. While the fund­ing is not ex­pected to be used be­fore this dead­line, I have been urg­ing a swift res­o­lu­tion to reau­tho­rize the pro­gram.

In Septem­ber, I signed a let­ter from the Penn­syl­va­nia Con­gres­sional Del­e­ga­tion to Speaker Paul Ryan and Leader Nancy Pelosi re­quest­ing leg­is­la­tion with bi­par­ti­san sup­port to ex­tend CHIP be brought to the House Floor for a vote as soon as pos­si­ble. CHIP is a health­care pro­gram that, his­tor­i­cally, has con­sis­tently gar­nered bi­par­ti­san sup­port, and I con­tinue to hope this reau­tho­riza­tion ef­fort will be bi­par­ti­san. But we must act quickly to en­sure there is no dis­rup­tion in cov­er­age for fam­i­lies that rely on CHIP.

I re­cently voted in fa­vor of leg­is­la­tion in the En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee that pro­vides a five-year reau­tho­riza­tion of this crit­i­cal pro­gram. I have been work­ing with my col­leagues on the Com­mit­tee on pro­vi­sions to ex­tend CHIP, and they were made part of the Help­ing En­sure Ac­cess for Lit­tle ones, Tod­dlers, and Hope­ful Youth by Keep­ing In­sur­ance De­liv­ery Sta­ble (HEALTHY KIDS) Act.

Un­der this bill, a multi-year reau­tho­riza­tion of CHIP will pro­vide the sta­bil­ity and pre­dictabil­ity that ex­pect­ing moth­ers and fam­i­lies with chil­dren who are cov­ered un­der the pro­gram de­serve. The leg­is­la­tion con­tains pro­vi­sions to pro­vide fund­ing for Med­i­caid and CHIP pro­grams across the coun­try, in­clud­ing in Puerto Rico and the Vir­gin Is­lands. The goal of reau­tho­riz­ing CHIP is not to make fun­da­men­tal changes, but to con­tinue the suc­cess of this ev­i­dence-based state-fed­eral part­ner­ship in the long-term.

In fact, re­search shows chil­dren en­rolled in CHIP have bet­ter health as adults, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fewer hos­pi­tal­iza­tions, and they are also more likely to fin­ish col­lege.

CHIP has a proven track record of pro­vid­ing qual­ity health­care to our re­gion. Specif­i­cally, in Penn­syl­va­nia’s Sixth Con­gres­sional District, over 7,000 chil­dren are en­rolled in the pro­gram, and nearly 177,000 chil­dren are en­rolled through­out the Com­mon­wealth. We must com­mit to be­ing good stew­ards of CHIP for fam­i­lies cur­rently en­rolled and for fu­ture en­rollees, as it has a pos­i­tive im­pact on so many in our com­mu­ni­ties.

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