Children's Health Insurance Program still unclear for kids

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HARRISBURG -- The administration of Gov. Tom Corbett is asking the federal government to grant about 50,000 low-income families a choice between keeping their child's health insurance under the Children's Health Insurance Program or giving them the option of Medicaid coverage.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states are required to move kids into expanded Medicaid programs if they come from families that make 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less, and as long as they don't have other coverage options.

For months, however, the Corbett administration has been saying they want to keep this group of children in the CHIP program.

"I believe this voluntary plan will cause the least amount of disruption in a child's health care and provide choice," stated a letter from the governor to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius Thursday, outlining the Corbett administration's request.

Under the proposal, children would remain enrolled in CHIP until their annual renewal, and then parents would have the option to choose which program they want to cover their child.

Federal officials were not available to comment on the letter, and it's not clear if such a plan would be agreed to.

Medicaid is by far the larger program: In Pennsylvania, more than 1 million children from low-income families are covered under Medicaid, and about 190,000 are covered under CHIP. Medicaid generally provides a broader benefit package and CHIP provides a more robust network of doctors. Medicaid has a federally defined benefit package, while CHIP is closer to a commercial insurance product.

Kate Giammarise:

First Published December 11, 2013 11:52 PM

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