Health insurance program for kids faces Dec. 31 deadline

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Dec 3, 2015 3:35 AM

(Harrisburg) -- A critical state program that provides low-income children with health care will expire at the end of the year if state lawmakers don't act.

It's got a long title - Children's Health Insurance Program - but most people call it CHIP.

It allows 150,000 kids to receive health coverage through the program.

That's because their parents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance.

The House recently approved moving CHIP from the Insurance Department to the Department of Human Services, but the bill still needs to pass the Senate and be signed by Governor Tom Wolf.

Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas says bringing the program into the department will make it more like Medicaid.

"We have a choice, the way I look at it. We can either invest the money, additional state dollars, in caps to add that functionality or we can use the systems we have at DHS that have already made those changes as part of the Affordable Care Act. So there's an opportunity to save money there," says Dallas.

"I think the idea would be to move the management and operations of CHIP over to DHS, but then there would also be an effort to integrate the two IT systems."

Dallas says contractors estimate it could take up to two years to fully integrate the D-H-S and CHIP systems.

Pennsylvania is said to be the only state where the insurance department operates the Children's Health Insurance Program.

However, advocates are warning that whatever state agency takes control, the program needs to be re-authorized by the end of the year.

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