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Politics & Government

Casey Calls on Lawmakers to Extend Funding for Children’s Health Insurance

Approximately 271,000 Pennsylvania children have health care coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and millions are covered nationwide.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is calling on his fellow lawmakers to extend funding for the program through fiscal year 2019.

“The basic problem we’ve got is the program is authorized through fiscal year 2019, but not funded,” said Casey. “We can’t say that we’re doing what we should be doing for children if we don’t match the funding with the authorization.

CHIP is insurance coverage for children and pregnant women who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

The extension bill would not only continue funding, it would also cover former foster kids to age 26, even if they change their state of residence; enroll newborns automatically, which is already done in Medicaid; improve access to preventive care services such as immunizations and screenings not currently covered by the program; and create better transitions between CHIP, Medicaid and qualified health plans.

Casey said while it’s a federal program, the extension bill would give states flexibility by allowing them to set coverage eligibility levels.

“They could expand coverage by raising eligibility to 300 percent of poverty, they could align CHIP eligibility age with Medicaid eligibility, so there’s a lot of things that states could do on their own that would provide some options and some flexibility for them,” he said.

The Senate bill was introduced recently by West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller and still has a long journey before making it to the Senate floor. Casey said he’s concerned about CHIP’s future.

“Even though this was bipartisan in the '90s and remained, for the most part, bipartisan since then, is in danger of not getting done because we don’t have enough bipartisan support for it. You know how things have been around here, so we have to get an early start and start building bipartisan support for the bill,” said Casey.

A bill to extend CHIP funding is also being crafted in the House; it has not yet been introduced.