State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

CHIP close to being rid of 6-month waiting period for kids

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 25, 2013 7:36 PM
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The state Senate has voted to remove a waiting period that has snarled enrollment in the commonwealth's nationally recognized Children's Health Insurance Program.

The quick Wednesday vote brings an issue one step closer to Gov. Corbett's desk a week after he called on the Legislature to re-authorize the nationally recognized program and eliminate the six-month holding time.

The waiting period applies to children more than two years old, and has been a part of CHIP since the program's creation in 1992. The stall was a way to ensure employers or consumers wouldn't drop private coverage to enroll in the public program.

Sen. Don White (R-Indiana), chairman of the Senate Insurance and Banking Committee, said the coverage gap has long been a source of frustration for lawmakers - and the motivation behind angry correspondence from their constituents.

"What happens if something occurs during that six-month period?" White said.

Under the proposal advanced by the Senate, the period would be eliminated, CHIP would be re-authorized through 2015 (it is extended every two years), and the Children's Health Advisory Council would meet twice a year instead of once annually.

White said many children eligible for CHIP are not enrolled. He hopes the latest bill to reauthorize the program changes that.

"I think this will increase the awareness," White said. "There's no excuse for not having 100 percent of the kids who are eligible for this to be enrolled."

Pennsylvania's CHIP was created in 1992 (its Senate sponsor at the time, was Allyson Schwartz, now U.S. congresswoman and Democratic candidate for governor). The program used as the model for the federal CHIP, signed into law in 1997.

Gov. Corbett issued a call to action on CHIP during his announcement of a Medicaid overhaul proposal last week. He highlighted it, among a number of health policy items, and called for the program to be re-authorized and the six-month waiting period to be squashed.

The bill received a unanimous vote in the Senate and heads to the House for a straight approval vote. Its sponsor, Rep. Nick Micozzie (R-Delaware) expects smooth sailing to the governor's desk.

"It would be like voting against apple pie and motherhood, voting against this," Micozzie said.

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