Valley Voices

Valley physician’s plea for children’s health insurance: ‘Let’s protect what works!’

The CHIP program provides health insurance for children and must be renewed this week to continue. Encourage your Congressman to sign on, advises Dr. Hardeep Chohan of Kaiser Permanente in Clovis.
The CHIP program provides health insurance for children and must be renewed this week to continue. Encourage your Congressman to sign on, advises Dr. Hardeep Chohan of Kaiser Permanente in Clovis.

As a physician and as United Way volunteer, I am concerned that Congress take action to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) right away before the program ends Saturday.

CHIP was enacted with broad bipartisan support in 1997 to provide funding to states to reduce the numbers of uninsured children in our country. The program focuses on low-income children in working families who do not have access to employer-based coverage, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Before its enactment, over 23 percent of low-income children were uninsured. Today only 5 percent of children remain uninsured.

CHIP provides healthcare coverage that is necessary for a child’s early development. For the first 10,000 days of a child’s life, access to quality, pediatric-centered healthcare is critical for their brain development and socio-emotional well-being. Health plans offered through CHIP are specifically designed for children.

They have a long track record of recognizing their unique developmental needs, such as providing regular wellness visits, developmental screenings and immunizations. Decades of data tells us that access to early, quality healthcare has predictive short and long-term educational outcomes for a child’s success in school.

It is important to also recognize that the success of CHIP rests on the shoulders of a robustly funded Medicaid program. While 8.4 million children receive health care through CHIP, an additional 50 million children receive coverage from Medicaid. Together, more than 40 percent of children depend on Medicaid and CHIP for their healthcare coverage.

CHIP also supports the financial stability of working families. Over 8 million children in working families are provided CHIP coverage because these families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to be able to purchase coverage on the private marketplace.

CHIP is often more affordable for working families in both premiums and out-of-pocket costs than most marketplace or employer-sponsored plans. CHIP also addresses the family glitch that has been problematic with the Affordable Care Act. Tax credit subsidies in the ACA are based on a sole single-earner, and do not consider the size of a family, creating a gap in affordable coverage.

CHIP covers this gap, and serves children who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

Unfortunately, without action from Congress by Saturday, funding for this critical program will run out for most states, putting millions of children at risk of losing health care coverage.

The solution is simple. The recommendations of Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, created by Congress to advise its members on these important programs, are funding for CHIP should be extended for an additional five years to ensure that low and moderate income children retain access to affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage.

Our local elected representatives (Congressmen Jim Costa, David Valadao, Devin Nunes and Jeff Denham) have supported reauthorization in the past and we thank them and are hopeful they will support us again.

With continued coverage, working families will be healthier and more self-sufficient. This is why we at United Way call on Congress to continue bipartisan support for CHIP by reauthorizing program funding at current levels through 2022. Let’s protect what works!

Dr. Hardeep Chohan is a physician at Kaiser Permanente in Clovis and specializes in internal medicine. He is the volunteer chairman of the United Way Fresno and Madera Counties Board Advocacy Committee.