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The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a health insurance program that provides coverage to children from low-income families. CHIP was established in 1997 with strong bipartisan support and is an essential state-federal partnership. As many as 15% of children lacked health insurance coverage at the time. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Medicaid and CHIP provided health insurance to more than 50% of U.S. children in 2012, making both programs combined the nation’s largest insurer. These children and their families depend on federally subsidized state Medicaid for their health insurance.

As a pediatric neurosurgeon in New Jersey, I have seen how these programs help children and allow them to have their well visits, sick visits and hospitalizations covered. The program is not perfect — for example, provider reimbursements are typically well below market rates and fail to cover physician practice costs. Thankfully, however, many physicians in our state — and across the U.S. — accept CHIP-covered patients providing access to care is needed for these children who otherwise would not receive the medical and surgical care that they so desperately need. And as we know, healthy children grow up to become healthy adults.

Unfortunately, since the program’s inception, Congress must reauthorize CHIP every few years, putting this vital coverage in jeopardy. In fact, at one point in 2018, CHIP funding lapsed for an unprecedented 114 days. While Congress extended CHIP funding through 2027, the program remains vulnerable without permanent financing.

Fortunately, Congress is currently considering legislation to fund CHIP permanently. One such effort is being led by Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Lucy McBath (D-Ga.). Endorsed by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Comprehensive Access to Robust Insurance Now Guaranteed (CARING) for Kids Act (H.R. 66) would ensure that gaps in CHIP coverage would never again happen.

Kids need access to care, and pediatric neurosurgical patients depend on CHIP funding. We need to provide adequate health care for children from low-income households. We have a fiduciary responsibility and an ethical obligation to support permanent funding for the CHIP. This is not just my opinion, but truth and reality. If Congress does not act, federal funding for CHIP will expire.

CHIP has provided access to care that low-income families would not have had otherwise. As a nation, we need to come together to support permanently funding CHIP through the CARING for Kids Act or similar federal legislative efforts so our children will have access to health care that they so desperately need.

Please help make permanent funding a reality by taking a moment to contact Congress and ask your representative to co-sponsor H.R. 66. Click here to go to neurosurgery’s Advocacy Action Center to send an email to your elected officials asking them to co-sponsor H.R. 66. A sample message, which can be personalized, is provided. It takes less than a minute to make a difference in the lives of millions of children and their families, so please act today!

 Editor’s Note: We hope that you will share what you learn from our posts. We invite you to join the conversation on Twitter by following @Neurosurgery and using the hashtag #FundCHIP.

Catherine A. Mazzola, MD, FAANS
New Jersey Pediatric Neuroscience Institute
Morristown, N.J.

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