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Republicans look to protect Pennsylvania CHIP program

Republicans look to protect PA CHIP program

People across the country are scrambling to meet Tuesday's deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act for coverage starting on Jan. 1.

In the meantime, some lawmakers are looking to protect a state-run insurance program that covers children.

Gov. Tom Corbett, along with some other Republicans, is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to maintain the Children's Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP. Eleven republicans backed Corbett with a letter to the HHS on December 20, 2013.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent was included in that letter said the Affordable Care Act will have negative effects on CHIP.

"Obamacare is going to destroy the CHIP program as we know it," Dent said.

CHIP, created in 1992, provides health insurance to uninsured children and teens who are not eligible for or enrolled in medical assistance.

The new health care regulations transition children between the ages of six and 18 who's families are between the 100% and 133% federal poverty level (FPL), out of CHIP and into Medicaid.

Congressman Charlie Dent said Medicaid doesn't measure up to CHIP.

"Often times, Medicaid patients have the worst health care outcomes of any patients in the system," Dent said.

Dent said physicians accept CHIP coverage more than Medicaid and said CHIP is working for more than 180,000 Commonwealth children through federal and state taxes.

But according to Bar Johnston, a member of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee, the Affordable Care Act will simply phase out CHIP and phase in Medicaid.

Johnston said Medicaid will provide more extensive coverage for nearly 2.8 million children in the Commonwealth.

"We want to cover instead of 188,000 children, the 2.8 million kids across the Commonwealth, and for people to stay on insurance until the age 26, on their parents plans," Johnston said.

Johnston called CHIP a "sister program to Medicaid," and said Medicaid will expand on the successful attributes of CHIP. She said it will also eliminate extra charges for "pre-existing" conditions.

The HHS tells Corbett in a letter sent on December 4, 2013, that the transition won't happen immediately, but proposed moving children into Medicaid once their current plans expire.

The department also suggested allowing families to change plans sooner if they so choose.

Corbett countered with this proposal:

"All children residing in households with incomes between 100% and 133% FPL, who are currently PA CHIP enrollees, will be able to remain covered in the program until their renewal. At that time, parents will have the option to choose to remain in the PA CHIP or enroll in the Medicaid program."

Corbett said the voluntary plan coincides with "President Obama's recent steps to grant states the flexibility and authority to allow the continuation of existing health insurance policies."

It's unclear if the department will accept that offer, and there's no timeline for when changes to CHIP could be made.

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