Cantwell Highlights Importance of Children’s Health Insurance Program, Calls for Increased Innovation to Streamline Access

60,000 kids in Washington state could lose their current health insurance if program is not extended

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) voiced her support for extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and called for increased innovation in the program to help streamline access to low-cost health insurance coverage for children and families.  

“We can never forget the people who are affected by the Children’s Health Insurance Program and what it means for families,” said Senator Cantwell. “CHIP is about giving families the ability to take care of their needs by making sure they have coverage.”

Cantwell questioned two of the witnesses on ways to streamline access to CHIP coverage and other sources of low-cost health insurance in order to increase participation and drive down costs. Witnesses Dr. Anne L. Schwartz of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) and Linda Nablo of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services said that smoothing transitions across coverage so families don’t lose insurance due to changes in their life circumstances could help to reduce costs.

CHIP has played a critical role in driving down Washington’s uninsured rate for children to an all-time low of below 3 percent – one of the lowest rates nationwide.  Without congressional action extending funding for CHIP, more than 60,000 kids in Washington state could lose their health insurance or face higher costs, while the state of Washington would face a $200 million funding shortfall.

"The Children’s Health Insurance Program is a vital safety net for thousands of children in Washington state. Families depend on the program to ensure their children get regular care, especially in more rural areas of our state. Providence St. Joseph Health is a strong supporter of CHIP coverage and the benefits it brings to the health and future well-being of the children we serve. We commend Sen. Cantwell for her leadership and support of this important program," said Elaine Couture, the executive vice president and chief executive, Washington and Montana, for Providence St. Joseph Health, which operates Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital in Spokane.

Cantwell has been a supporter of the CHIP program since being elected to the Senate. In 2007, Cantwell championed a CHIP “fix” – called the “qualifying state option” – that has enabled Washington state to receive its fair share of federal CHIP funds to cover tens of thousands of previously uninsured children. Before this fix was enacted, Washington was penalized for covering low-income children on its own prior to the enactment of CHIP.

Washington state has long been a leader in providing children with access to care. The state’s CHIP program, called Apple Health for Kids, provides low-cost and comprehensive health insurance to uninsured children with household incomes up to 312 percent of the federal poverty level (roughly $78,000 for a family of four).