Op/Ed.: Protecting children’s health care

By U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, Sixth District, Pennsylvania

U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-6)

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.

Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06) represents parts of Berks, Chester, Lebanon, and Montgomery counties, and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

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