Pediatricians Celebrate CHIP Turning 25, Urge Improvements
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Children's Health Insurance Program. Since its start in 1997, the child uninsured rate in the U.S. has dropped nearly 10 percentage points.
Dr. Mary Moody, board president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Missouri chapter and a St. Louis pediatrician, called the program "a blessing" for so many families, especially those who make enough not to qualify for Medicaid, but who do not have employer-sponsored coverage or struggle to afford other insurance.
"These children are benefiting from routine checkups and chronic disease management, like asthma follow-ups and those sorts of things," Moody pointed out. "Allowing that gap to be filled by the CHIP program is really keeping kids healthy and strong."
Missouri just last year started to implement Medicaid expansion, though there have been legislative efforts to repeal it and withhold funds.
Moody noted while CHIP has remained a stable program for families, there is still room to grow, such as implementing 12-month continuous coverage for kids, and covering Missouri children regardless of their immigration status.
A COVID relief bill from early in the pandemic requires continuous coverage for all kids throughout the Public Health Emergency, which is set to expire on Oct. 13. Moody stressed continuous coverage has shown to be cost-effective for the state, as well as beneficial for children and families.
"We've seen that these kids have more consistent care," Moody observed. "There's less fragmentation, that kids and their parents don't show up at the doctor's office and realize their health insurance is inactive for whatever reason."
In Missouri, the upper-income limit for a family of three to have their kids be eligible for CHIP is a little more than $70,000 a year.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, thinks Congress should permanently reauthorize CHIP, to build on the progress it has made.
"Children are facing a lot of challenges these days," Alker emphasized. "Making sure they have access to affordable, accessible health care is critical so that we can get our children back on track."
Missouri News is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.