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As CHIP Funding Nears Expiration, Study Warns that Half of All Kids Under 4 Depend on Publicly Provided Health Care


January 8, 2018
Kevin Mahnken
The 74

As Congress debates whether to approve a long-term extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a recently released brief from the Urban Institute has spotlighted the initiative’s importance to young families. Nearly half of all American children under the age of 4 receive health care coverage under CHIP or Medicaid, along with 20 percent of their parents.

CHIP covers 8.9 million children nationwide whose families, though poor, fall above the income threshold for Medicaid. After last being extended in 2015, the program’s federal funding ran out in September. Though it has historically enjoyed bipartisan support, partisan divisions over how to pay for another extension blossomed into a major political dispute in December.

Although a short-term provision was passed before Christmas providing an additional $3 billion through the end of March, many states are projected to face shortfalls in their individual CHIP programs that will lead to cutbacks. National lawmakers now face calls from across the political spectrum — including, most recently, Hillary Clinton — to reach a more lasting agreement.

In a paper for the Urban Institute, researchers tallied the number of parents and children in all 50 states who turn to CHIP and Medicaid for medical insurance. The two programs are typically paired in analyses of this type because of CHIP’s program design: States are permitted to dedicate federal dollars to either establish their own CHIP programs or else simply expand their statewide Medicaid systems. The national breakdown between the two approaches is roughly 50–50.

While huge numbers of families rely on both programs for insurance coverage, those with newborns and toddlers are uniquely dependent upon them. Roughly 42 percent of kids between the ages of 4 and 18 are insured through Medicaid and CHIP, compared with nearly 49 percent of those under the age of 4. About 1 in 6 parents of older children is covered under the two programs, while 1 in 5 parents of younger children is.