State House Sound Bites

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

CHIP reauthorized without unpopular waiting period

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 16, 2013 1:34 PM

Gov. Corbett has signed into law the elimination of an unpopular six-month waiting period for some children in the state's Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

The lag in enrollment applied to some children more than two years old - it was a way to ensure employers or consumers wouldn't drop private coverage to enroll in the public program.

Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) praised his colleagues for making the proposal a priority.

"Not often do you see legislation as important as this get on the fast track," White said. "You know, we like to bog things down and debate and kick it around. This initiative by the governor is something that was truly important."

Corbett pushed for the passage of CHIP's reauthorization, and the elimination of the waiting period, as part of a broader health policy proposal unveiled last month that included a sort of hybrid approach to expanding health insurance access to low-income Pennsylvanians.

The law erasing CHIP's waiting period is effective immediately, but what the program will look like come next year is still up in the air.

Federal officials told the Corbett administration last month to shift tens of thousands of children from CHIP to Medicaid by January.

Jay Pagni, the governor's spokesman, said the administration is requesting to keep more of those children in CHIP, arguing it's a superior program.

"They can deny it - we're still working with them. We will continue to have discussions with them to ensure that we have a product in Pennsylvania, a program in Pennsylvania, best for Pennsylvania's kids," Pagni said.

Bev Mackereth, secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, said the bottom line of negotiations is that all Pennsylvania children will have health insurance, either through Medicaid or CHIP. She said it may be that children who switch to Medicaid will go into a program resembling CHIP.

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