Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has signed a bill to extend a popular program that provides health insurance for children and eliminate a six-month waiting period before some children can join.
Corbett's signature Wednesday followed speedy approval by the Legislature to renew the Children's Health Insurance Program through 2015.
"This bill moves us closer to ensuring that every child in Pennsylvania has timely access to health care coverage," Corbett said. "CHIP is a nationally-recognized program that has been providing health insurance coverage for over two decades."
Children's advocates have criticized the six-month waiting period as a needlessly bureaucratic and complicated step, and Corbett made its elimination part of his effort to close the gap of an estimated 150,000 children in Pennsylvania who lack insurance.
"For more than 20 years, families throughout Pennsylvania and right here in Berks and Lehigh counties have relied on CHIP to meet their children's health insurance needs and have allowed these kids to grow up healthier," said Pa. Rep. Gary Day, R-Berks/Lehigh counties, who voted for the measure.
The waiting period applies to children who qualify for the low-cost and at-cost CHIP programs, but not to the free CHIP program. The waiting period was a way to discourage parents or employers from dropping private insurance to enroll children in CHIP.