Colorado Puts an End to CHIP Waiting Period – Let’s End the Wait for All Kids

Colorado children and families can breathe a little easier now that the Governor signed into law a commonsense bill that ends CHIP waiting periods.  Colorado had required families to wait for three months from the end of their employer-sponsored insurance before enrolling their children in Child Health Plan Plus, Colorado’s CHIP program.

Cody Belzley of the Colorado’s Children’s Campaign commended the Governor and legislature for taking “an important step toward that shared goal of making coverage more accessible for families and public insurance programs more efficient for taxpayers.”

Cody testified before a Colorado Senate committee in support of the bill to end the waiting period.  At the hearing, she shared the story of Ryan, a policeman from Montrose, Colorado.  When Ryan’s employer-offered health plan premium costs doubled and the deductible increased significantly, he could no longer afford coverage for his family of four.  His wife learned that their family income was low enough for their children to qualify for Colorado’s CHP+.  However, they would have to risk going without insurance for 90 days under the state’s waiting period.  It was a tough choice to make but they didn’t have any better option so they took the risk.  Thanks to the new law in Colorado, other families won’t have to endure the same heartache.

Waiting periods create unnecessary anguish for families by creating a barrier between kids and the coverage they need.  This extra layer of red-tape puts children’s health and families’ economic security at risk by requiring children to remain uninsured for a period of time before being covered.  Such policies have no place in the new paradigm ushered in by the enactment of the Affordable Care Act where everyone is expected have health care coverage.

It’s time to end the wait for all kids.

It’s great that Colorado has eliminated the wait but 37 other states continue the antiquated policy of requiring kids to undergo a waiting period before becoming insured under CHIP.  States can end the waiting period on their own but it would ensure consistency nationwide  for CMS to eliminate CHIP waiting periods for all eligible kids through regulations.  CMS failed to do so in proposed rules earlier this year and several states encouraged them to end the wait for kids when they commented on the proposed regulations.

Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Vermont:  “A waiting period creates a time of uninsurance for children, and that most likely will result in some ‘eligible’ children foregoing needed medical services. Our view is that waiting periods at best delay children’s coverage and are contrary to sound health policy.”

West Virginia: “The waiting period is an added step that would lead to gaps in coverage, a decreased ability to measure quality, and add to overall churning.”

Washington: “… it represents an undue administrative burden as well as not serving as a real substitution prevention measure.”

New York: “A waiting period is unnecessary, administratively burdensome, and forces children to remain uninsured or have to find temporary coverage for that period.”

As my colleagues Jocelyn Guyer, Tricia Brooks and Elisabeth Burak have stated in previous posts, waiting periods make no sense once everyone is expected to enroll in coverage next year and, indeed, can face penalties for failing to do so.   Hopefully CMS will make waiting periods a relic of the past, but until that day comes, more states should follow Colorado’s lead.