North Carolina has made tremendous strides in improving the health of children and youth. By many measures, North Carolina children are healthier than a generation ago. Children are more likely to access preventive care, less likely to become pregnant, and more likely to live to celebrate their 18th birthday.
Much of this progress in child health is attributable to dramatic declines in the percentage of uninsured children due to expanded access to health insurance provided by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, called Health Choice in North Carolina) and Medicaid. Created in 1998, and reformed in the 2009 ACA legislation, Health Choice provides health insurance for children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford coverage in the private market–about 150,000 children in North Carolina.
CHIP offers comprehensive coverage that enables children to access a robust menu of services, including preventive services, prescription drugs, dental, and behavioral health. This means children are more likely to see a doctor for well-child visits, access medical services when they need them, and have a routine source of care that helps them achieve and maintain good health.
Evidence shows CHIP plays a critical role in bolstering children’s health and well-being:
- A national study found that a 10 percentage point increase in Medicaid/CHIP eligibility resulted in a roughly 3% decline in child mortality.
- A large and consistent body of evidence shows that, children are more likely to have a usual source of care, to visit physicians and dentists, to use preventive care, and less likely to have unmet needs for physician services, prescription drugs, and dental, specialty, and hospital care following enrollment in CHIP.
- A study of the impact of CHIP in New York showed that pre-existing racial/ethnic disparities in access, unmet need, and continuity of care among children were virtually eliminated during the year following their enrollment in CHIP.
Today, members of Congress will debate a compromise package that would extend CHIP funding for two additional years as part of a larger bipartisan deal to fix funding issues with how Medicare pays providers. Although a longer four-year extension through 2019 would be preferable, the compromise package included in the ‘Doc Fix’ legislation is superior to other proposals that would make substantial cuts and changes to CHIP that would likely result in substantial numbers of currently enrolled children becoming uninsured or facing higher out of pocket costs.
North Carolina could lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds in 2016 if Congress were to allow CHIP funding to expire and child health outcomes would likely suffer due interrupted or lost medical care.