What is the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and why did Jimmy Kimmel just urge Congress to fund it?
Last night, December 11th, Jimmy Kimmel brought his seven-month-old son onto his show to talk about the Children’s Health Insurance Program, aka CHIP. Kimmel is one of the many parents who worry that Congress won’t fund CHIP before the end of the year, but what exactly would that mean?
CHIP is a low-cost insurance program that covers medical treatment for children (and sometimes pregnant women) whose families can’t afford regular insurance but don’t qualify for Medicaid. It was signed into law in 1997. Under the program, most states funded insurance for children whose families made up to twice the Federal Poverty Level. And included in these families are parents who can’t receive Obamacare subsidies for their children because they are insured through their employers. The program funds insurance for nine million children each year.
CHIP is funded through block grants given to each state, unlike Medicare, which is a permanent program. Federal funding for the program expired on September 30th, after Congress failed to renew it. For now, states can still use the remaining money they have, but unless Congress renews the program soon, funding will dry up. Some states, like Minnesota, have already spent their allocated CHIP money and are relying on leftover Medicare funds as a temporary solution.
On the December 11th episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel urged his audience to ask Congress to fund CHIP. He mentioned that CHIP had previously been reauthorized in 2015, with overwhelming bipartisan support in both branches of Congress.
"This is literally a life-and-death program for American kids. It's always had bipartisan support, but this year they let the money for it expire while they work on getting tax cuts to their millionaire and billionaire donors," Kimmel told viewers.
As Kimmel mentioned, the program has traditionally had strong bipartisan support, but Republicans in Congress this year placed a higher emphasis on trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and passing the new tax reform bill than renewing CHIP funding. Though the Senate Finance Committee passed a bill to reauthorize CHIP in November, it is unclear how the program will be funded, causing many states to worry that Congress won’t allocate them the money they need.
You can encourage your elected officials to fund CHIP before the end of the year by calling them or sending them a text message. We hope Congress continues its funding of this important program.