Our View: CHIP is critical for children’s healthy development

By Nora OBrien-Suric, Ph.D.

Health care for millions of American children is being held hostage.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program covers nearly nine million children nationwide, and right now it’s at risk.

Known as Child Health Plus in New York, CHIP builds on the foundation of Medicaid to cover children in working families who are not eligible for Medicaid, but lack access to affordable private coverage.

Congress let CHIP funding lapse at the end of September, and while stopgap measures have helped those with the most urgent needs, no deal has been reached to extend the program. So while politicians squabble, the stalemate continues, and millions of families are living in limbo wondering if their kids will have coverage.

In 2016, nearly 700,000 kids in New York State relied on Child Health Plus to get the care they needed to stay healthy.

For these hundreds of thousands of kids, CHIP is critical for their healthy development and helps them grow up to reach their full potential.

Kids enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid miss fewer days of school and do better in school. They’re more likely to graduate high school and attend college. They earn higher wages and pay more in taxes. And they’re healthier adults, which results in lower health care costs.

According to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, extending CHIP actually saves the government money, because it’s less expensive than if these children enroll in Medicaid or get insurance coverage through the marketplace.

At the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, we want young children impacted by poverty to be physically, socially and emotionally healthy as they enter kindergarten.

We know that the first few weeks, months and years of a child’s life are the most critical – and when children are most vulnerable. The developmental milestones and early learning experiences children have before age 5 will shape their health and well-being as they grow up. And children who miss out on these milestones are often unable to catch up.

CHIP provides affordable access to care children need. That benefits working families and society as a whole. It’s a smart investment for all of us.