HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill Wednesday renewing the state Children's Health Insurance Program and eliminating a six-month waiting period for enrollment, the first element of his proposed "Healthy PA" plan to be completed since he introduced it last month.
CHIP provides insurance to children whose families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but who can't afford private coverage.
The governor's signature came after the Legislature's relatively swift approval; the House passed the measure Tuesday afternoon and the Senate passed it last month.
"Not often do you see legislation as important as this get on the fast track," said Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, at a signing ceremony in the Capitol Wednesday. "We like to bog things down and debate," he joked.
The bill renews CHIP in Pennsylvania through the end of 2015, and eliminates the six-month waiting period for enrollment that had applied to some children. The waiting period was originally instituted to prevent employers or consumers from dropping private insurance to enroll in CHIP.
However, the waiting period ended up being a barrier to children enrolling and receiving needed care, Mr. White said.
"People don't use insurance until they need it. ... They had to wait six months and their kid was sick now," he said.
The Corbett administration is still in a dispute with the federal government about whether some CHIP kids will have to be moved to the Medicaid program, as required under the Affordable Care Act. The administration has asked for a waiver for this requirement.
Statewide, 188,000 children are enrolled in CHIP; more than 1 million are enrolled in Medicaid.
Other portions of the governor's Healthy PA plan aim to overhaul Medicaid in Pennsylvania, and await federal approval.
Kate Giammarise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-4254. First Published October 17, 2013 11:12 AM