Eliminate CHIP Waiting Period – No Child Should Wait for Coverage

As we’ve highlighted several times, the recently proposed ACA rules on Medicaid, CHIP, and the Exchanges kept the option for states to continue requiring uninsured children to wait up to 90 days before enrolling in CHIP.

It bears repeating: Waiting periods, still in use in 38 states, make no sense in a post-ACA universe where everyone is expected to have health insurance.  As Tricia Brooks pointed out, several states get this and are taking steps to minimize or remove them.   Even with strong exceptions, in effect states that keep waiting periods would only delay children’s access to needed care and create confusion and hardship for families. And while some children may be able to access coverage on the exchange while they wait, it is deeply problematic to design such a disjointed system of coverage for some children, which promotes unnecessary disruptions in the continuity of their care.

As our Co-Executive Director Jocelyn Guyer posted yesterday, eliminating waiting periods is high on our list of our priorities in the comments we submitted on the proposed rules yesterday.  And just to make sure there is no doubt how strongly we feel about this, we joined forces with 22 other national organizations to call on HHS to get rid of this outdated, unreasonable rule.  Our letter concludes:

“No child should be at any risk of interrupted health care access in a reformed health system. […]  This country has made a historic commitment to covering children, evidenced by the success of Medicaid and CHIP in bringing the rate of uninsured children to all-time lows.  In a post-ACA environment, CHIP waiting periods would mean that some children face more stringent enrollment barriers than any other group.  We urge you to disallow the use of any CHIP waiting periods in the final rule. This policy should be a relic of the past in a world where all Americans, especially children, are expected to have timely access to uninterrupted health care.”

Read our CHIP waiting period letter here.

Elisabeth Wright Burak is a Senior Fellow at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families.