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Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), enacted in 1997, was the largest expansion of health insurance coverage for children since the inception of Medicaid in 1965. SCHIP provides coverage to children in low-income families whose income is higher than Medicaid income eligibility limits but who cannot afford private coverage.  Unlike Medicaid, which is an entitlement program, SCHIP is a block grant program. Every state receives a set amount from the federal government. In exchange, states are given the flexibility to determine how exactly they administer their programs. For example, states are free to establish their own eligibility criteria, resulting in a patchwork of programs across the country.

The program expired in 2007, causing legislative debates in Congress and resulting in two vetoes of reauthorizing legislation by then-President George W. Bush.  SCHIP was extended through 2009 pending a new administration and Congress.

Early in his administration, President Barack Obama signed into law the State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, providing the program with $32.3 billion over 4.5 years, enough to insure an additional 4 million children nationwide.  While this is a great first step, more must be done to ensure that all children are insured.

To read a CHF Policy Brief on SCHIP, click here