A few years ago we discussed changes in Federal version of the CHIP program which provides low or no cost health care coverage to minors. Pennsylvania has a long-established CHIP program (having been one of the initial states to adopt the program) which is about five years older than the Federal version.


Recently, Governor Corbett notified the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, that he was seeking an exemption from having to transfer about 70,000 Pennsylvania children from the CHIP program to Medicaid. This is a controversial request since Gov. Corbett is on record for declining to expand Medicaid as part of the Obama Affordable Care Act. His decision on transferring children off CHIP and onto Medicaid has been met by criticism by some public interest groups based on the belief that children would be better served by Medicaid than under the CHIP program.


An analysis of this issue is provided in the May 31, 2013 online edition of the Times Herald. Marc Levy interviewed attorney Richard Weishaupt who believes that Medicaid is a better option for families than CHIP because Medicaid “covers all medically necessary services, while CHIP provides more limited coverage, which is fine if a child is normal and relatively healthy.”


CHIP is the only medical program a child may be enrolled in and does not utilize secondary or “wrap around” coverage Medicaid can be used for with disabled children, for instance. The nuances as to one plan or the other are really individualized by the needs of the families participating in them. Regardless, they are two tools for providing children with health care.

It would be easy to assume there is an element of politics to Gov. Corbett’s decision, but there may be a budgetary motivation, as well. Mr. Levy points out that one advantage to keeping more children in CHIP is that the Commonwealth will collect more money from the Federal government than it would under the Medicaid coverage.


The next six months will be interesting as Pennsylvania and the U.S. gears up for the anticipated effective dates of various provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act, notably, the state insurance exchanges. Issues such as the transition of children from CHIP to Medicaid will likely increase and it is important to remember that their impact on families are real and should not be lightly considered.