Student to Congress: Make CHIP a priority

By the CDHP team

This blog post was written by Hannah Klaus, a student at Enloe High School in Wake County, N.C. She works as a youth staff for Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!), a nonprofit organization in North Carolina that empowers youth, in partnership with adults, to create community change. YES! equips high school youth and their adult allies with the tools necessary to take a stand in their communities and create change that will positively impact adolescent health.

Getting regular dental care has never been an issue for me because I’m a high school student whose parents have dental insurance. However, some of my classmates depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for coverage. When my peers are not able to access the health and dental care they need, they have a harder time doing well in school. Whether or not they’ll continue to have dental coverage is up in the air because Congress has not yet extended funding for CHIP.

Why is dental coverage a big deal? Because tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease for children and teens.

As a high school student, I know that not having access to primary care can prevent my peers from attending class or staying focused. Research shows that children with dental problems are much more likely to miss school, and teens who report dental pain are four times more likely to struggle academically.

CHIP became law in 1997 and provides insurance coverage to children whose parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but are still unable to afford private insurance. CHIP covers more than 8 million children and teens across the country. Its funding is set to expire on September 30. In my community (Wake County, NC), even with the current operation of CHIP and Medicaid, there are still 22,000 people ages 1-18 who are uninsured. The last thing we should do is allow young people to lose the coverage that allows them to access care and stay healthy.

As a high school student, I know that not having access to primary care can prevent my peers from attending class or staying focused.

Even in states that expanded their Medicaid program, CHIP is a necessity for thousands of children whose families earn a little too much to qualify for Medicaid. Additionally, providing low-income families with insurance coverage can reduce the cost to taxpayers for dental procedures that would otherwise be incurred by uninsured patients.

CHIP dramatically expands access to a wide variety of health services — not just dental care. North Carolina receives up to 76 percent reimbursement under CHIP. This means that our state is able to extend coverage to uninsured children without a large cost. Additionally, CHIP allows states more flexibility around the benefits and cost-sharing than does Medicaid. Employers are able to use premiums and cost-sharing for employees holding insurance coverage through NC Health Choice. Therefore, CHIP is a comparably affordable public insurance option for our state.

CHIP was established and continues to be maintained by strong bipartisan support. In other words, extending CHIP funding is something that should unite members of Congress, regardless of their political party.

For many years, CHIP has ensured the health of thousands of children. I believe that it is critical that CHIP funding is extended to ensure continued access to dental and medical coverage. Children and teens in North Carolina and nationwide who do not qualify for Medicaid rely on CHIP. If these young people do not have access, they will not receive the preventative and primary care that is needed to stay healthy, maintain good dental health, and succeed in school.

Many community leaders are taking action now to push for continued funding of CHIP. Young people and adults: please advocate for continued funding for this program that has brought health care coverage to children that may not otherwise have had it. Take a few minutes and contact your members of Congress. Let them know that extending CHIP funding should be at the top of their list of priorities. 

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Did you know?

44% }
of U.S. children will have at least one cavity by kindergarten.
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