The Children’s Health Insurance Program, covering low-income kids across the country, turns 25 in August, but Pennsylvania has had its own “CHIP” even longer – and it was used as a model for the federal program.
CHIP was launched in Pennsylvania five years earlier than the national program. CHIP allows states to cover children when parents can’t afford private health insurance.
Today, said Antoinette Kraus, executive director of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Health Access Network, about 136,000 children in the Commonwealth are enrolled in CHIP, which is a slight decrease from previous years.
“We think that’s because right now, we’re still under a Public Health Emergency,” she said, “so a lot of kids are enrolled in Medicaid with their families and they can’t be cut off from coverage during this period. So, we expect when the public health emergency ends, a lot of kids will transition from Medicaid to CHIP.”
That’s because in Pennsylvania, CHIP can cover any uninsured child who is not eligible for the state Medical Assistance or Medicaid program. The current end date for the Public Health Emergency is Oct. 13, although there’s a chance it could be extended.
The Pennsylvania Health Access Network helps families find health services that fit their budget. Kraus said one persistent barrier they see is that parents don’t always know the income eligibility requirements for CHIP and assume they can’t afford it.
“But really,” she said, “for parents with very low incomes – if you’re making between $21,000 and $28,000, and you have a kid under five, or you’re making between $18,000 or $28,000 and your kid is between six and 18 – CHIP is free for them.”
Kraus added that Pennsylvania is seeing one of the lowest rates of uninsured residents in its history, both for adults and children. She credited a combination of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and CHIP. However, a report from 2019 showed that 4.6% of children in the state still were uninsured.