Last week the PEW Charitable Trusts released a new report on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), The Children’s Health Insurance Program, A 50-state examination of CHIP spending and enrollment. The report outlines some of the history, progress and differences in state approaches to the 1997 program.  CHIP was created as a federal funded program that awards all fifty states to expand health insurance coverage to children.  The report indicates that in fiscal year 2013, CHIP covered 8.1 million children at a total cost of more than $13 billion.  Since its inception, the program has been instrumental in reducing the number of uninsured children nationally from 10.7 million (15 percent of all children) in 1997 down to 6.6 million (9 percent) in 2012.

While that report was being released a letter, signed by CWLA and more than 1200 organizations, was sent to the congressional leadership asking for an extension of CHIP before its funding runs out in 2015. The letter said in part:

“As leading national, state, tribal, and local organizations concerned about the health and well-being of America’s children and pregnant women, we are writing to urge you to take action in the upcoming lame duck session to provide continued funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). ….we urge you to include a four-year CHIP funding extension in the next legislative vehicle that is moving at the end of this session.”

CHIP has had a strong bipartisan support in past congresses with key leaders including Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) working together in 1997 to develop and get the legislation passed under the Clinton Administration.

The group of signatories, which include a cross section of national associations as well as organizations from all fifty states, argued in the letter that an extension now is needed because, ““ CHIP’s uncertain future is a significant problem for states as they are already developing their FY 2016 budgets and negotiating contracts with insurers and providers. In order for states to continue their programs without interruption, they must know that that federal support for CHIP will exist beyond FY 2015. If funding is not stabilized, states will have no choice but to begin planning for the impending funding shortfall, which will require drastic program cuts through enrollment caps, benefit reductions, reductions in eligibility, or provider payments cuts”