What is the Children’s Health Insurance Program? Also called CHIP.

Children’s Health Insurance Program

CHIP is called the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  It is a program that is given or administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

It is a state and sort of a federally funded program. In essence, the program is matched fund to fund by the federal government  to provide insurance for families of children.

There is little worse than not having insurance when you have children of your own. Stress and anxiety eat at you daily as you try to find a job that has insurance or another way to get it. CHIP is a good source of insurance for children.

It was initially designed to cover children who were uninsured where the parents’ incomes were modest but too high to qualify for Medicaid.  In other words, Medicaid covered insurance for very low income families. But studies were showing that there were a large number of children, whose families made some money, and therefore didn’t qualify for Medicaid, but who still weren’t insured.

History of the CHIP Program

CHIP was started in 1997 and was an expansion of taxpayer-funded insurance. It was the largest of sorts since Medicaid began in the 1960’s.

It was originally seen as a ten year program.  Therefore a reauthorization was required in 2007.

It began under the Social Security Act.  It was supported by Senator Edward Kennedy, Senator Orrin Hatch, and First Lady Hilary Clinton at the time.

It really became hatched after the 1993 Clinton Health Care Plan had failed. This smaller version, and more specific was envisioned. They also wanted something that would gain support from both parties.  It was funded on the thought of increasing tobacco taxes by 75 cents.


Partnership of the State and Federal Governments

This program is a partnership and it was passed with the belief that success depended on both parties working well together.   The state would have certain responsibilities, guidelines, and choices.

The first choice for a state was how to use the CHIP program. 3 different possibilities were seen.

1.)     The state could use the CHIP program separate from the Medicaid Program.

2.)     The state could use the CHIP program and the funds, to expand the Medicaid Program.

3.)     The states could make a combination program.

The states would then receive federal funds in addition to the funds for Medicaid match.

In early 1999, less than 2 years after it was passed, 47 states had signed up for the CHIP program.  But, the problem soon became clear. It was difficult to get children enrolled.

Administration of George W. Bush and Barack Obama

There were two attempts under this presidency to expand the funding for the CHIP program. In both times, President Bush vetoed the bills.

The belief was a large concern by President Bush that the government was moving towards federalization of the health care in general.

His belief was also that the government was heading away from providing insurance for poor children and moving toward providing insurance for the middle class families.

In February of 2009, President Obama signed into place a bill expanding the CHIP program to 4 million additional children.  It also included pregnant women and also legal immigrants.


The Debate

The cost of the CHIP program over the first 10 years was calculated and came to over 40 billion dollars.  The largest debate is the increasing role of the federal government in health care.

Studies in 2007 showed that children who were once on CHIP and then dropped out, would seek emergency care facilities rather than primary care physicians. In the end, this increased the overall cost for the government.

Another study showed that for every 100 children added to CHIP, there was a loss of between 25 and 50 children from private coverage. This means that some families used the CHIP program not out of necessity and chose it to save themselves some money.  On the flip side, that means that 25 to 50 children who needed the program were unable to use it.



The bill was originally scheduled for 10 years. That means in 2007 it was up for renewal. It passed both houses of the congress and a expansion was approved.

The expansion was considering an annual income cut off of $82,600.  This was vetoed by President Bush.

Three weeks later, another bill was passed with an annual income cut off of $62,000 which was also vetoed by President Bush.

Congress ultimately extended CHIP funding through March of 2009 after the other two bills were vetoed.

It was finally Reauthorized in 2009 by President Obama and the expansion was set into place. A cigarette tax of 62 cents was added.

The CHIP program has great expectations for those children who are uninsured. The goal should be with them alone. Additional programs are being considered to help with overall insurance problems.  The CHIP program is just one battle that is being done for the uninsured.

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