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The Journal Gazette

  • GiaQuinta

Thursday, November 02, 2017 1:00 am

CHIP shot

Renewing children's insurance should be easy call for Congress

Tony GiaQuinta

Tony Gia-Quinta is a Parkview physician and vice president of the Indiana American Academy of Pediatrics.

Twenty years ago, Congress enacted with strong bipartisan support a health insurance bill for children. The reasoning behind the bill was simple: Children without health insurance are less healthy, with five times the likelihood of an unmet medical need.

Furthermore, without stable access to a medical provider, preventive services are missed. Illnesses such as asthma and diabetes are instead treated as emergencies, with ER and hospital services easily costing tens of thousands of dollars, bankrupting families.

The bill, called the Children's Health Insurance Plan, provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but lack access to affordable private coverage.

The program was wildly successful, boosting insurance coverage for children to historic levels, currently at 95 percent nationwide.

Because of this, 8.4 million children have received routine check-ups, immunizations, sick visits, prescriptions, dental and vision care, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, laboratory and X-ray services, and emergency services.

Indiana's CHIP program, Hoosier Healthwise, has been particularly effective.

Over the last three years, enrollment has increased by 28.7 percent. Indiana's uninsured rate among children in families meeting eligibility criteria is 7.6 percent, compared to the national average of 8.5 percent.

The percentage of children who received six or more visits as recommended in the first 15 months of life has increased in the past five years, and is now at nearly 70 percent.

The rate of emergency room visits has decreased as primary care visits, dental care, and compliance with prescription medicines have gone up.

Unfortunately, the deadline for renewal of CHIP has come and gone. Without federal action, now, states will lose CHIP funds.

In Indiana, about 100,000 families will lose insurance coverage for their children.

Congress has a choice to preserve the gains in children's health insurance coverage made over the past 20 years or fall backward to a time when one in five children had no insurance.

Congress must renew CHIP and continue its commitment to the health of our children, our future.