The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, has been in the news recently as lawmakers debate the future of this popular safety net program for children of lower-income families. The program, which has been around since 1997, has enjoyed nearly universal bipartisan support from the beginning, but that support has come into question recently as Congress allowed funding for CHIP to expire four months ago and seemed to be in no hurry to reauthorize it. As worried parents waited to see what our lawmakers would do, CHIP reauthorization took a back seat to tax reform.
CHIP is a federally funded program with state oversight and administration. While eligibility and benefits vary by state, families with incomes up to 200% and in some states 400% of the federal poverty level may qualify, and a single low monthly premium usually covers all children in the household.
As news spread about states closing their doors to new enrollees and beginning the process of winding down their CHIP plans, Congress finally voted to fund the program for the next six years. The reauthorization was included in the January 22 deal to keep the government open for another three weeks.
While agents cannot earn a commission for referring clients to the Children’s Health Insurance program, that doesn’t mean you should not be talking about it. CHIP is a great program for both group and individual agents to promote to dependents, especially given the high cost of dependent coverage in the individual and small group markets. For those that qualify, CHIP is a no-brainer, and by informing your clients about it provides a great service.
In the small group market, for instance, most employers subsidize the employee premiums but do not contribute to the cost of dependent coverage. This leaves many employees feeling helpless; they know they need insurance for themselves and should sign up at least for employee-only coverage, but they also feel a little guilty doing so if they can’t also afford to cover their children. CHIP gives them a way to do just that.
What if, on the same page you distribute to employees showing their plan options and per-pay-period cost of health insurance, you also included information about the Children’s Health Insurance Program? It would help employees and their families make a more informed decision and would demonstrate that you’re looking out for their best interests—what a great way to enhance the value of the employer’s offering!
In many states, you can even request free marketing material about CHIP, and the brochures are great to include in the employees’ packets. At a time when both employers and individuals are struggling to fit the cost of health insurance into the budget, the Children’s Health Insurance Program can relieve some of the pressure.