Program Design Snapshot: Public Coverage Waiting Periods for Children

By Martha Heberlein

“Waiting period” refers to the length of time a child is required to be uninsured prior to enrolling in a public health coverage program. The restriction generally applies to separate SCHIP programs only, as waiting periods are not permitted in Medicaid without a waiver. Waiting periods are primarily designed to deter crowd out; however, because waiting periods essentially require children to go without coverage for reasons beyond their control and their effectiveness in deterring crowd out has not been proven, many states have sought to target waiting periods by limiting their length and/or establishing targeted exceptions.