Each year, over 6 million children and 370,000 pregnant women across the nation are covered through the Children’s Health Insurance Program . In Louisiana, nearly 150,000 children and pregnant women benefit from CHIP. Created in 1997 and renewed as part of the Affordable Care Act, CHIP stands as a vital piece of the nation’s infrastructure for health insurance coverage.

CHIP was created to provide a source of affordable, quality health coverage for working American families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but still fall within a certain range of the Federal Poverty Level. CHIP helps give more families access to health coverage by extending availability to a higher income level, which is 250 percent of the federal poverty level for Louisiana. CHIP also allows states to cover some children and pregnant women who may not be eligible for Medicaid.

Louisiana families greatly benefit from the CHIP program. While 88.1 percent of eligible children in the United States are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, 92.5 percent of eligible children in Louisiana are enrolled in these programs.

However, while the law to renew CHIP passed in 2010 to last through 2019, funding for CHIP was only extended through September 2015. As a result, CHIP supporters, such as the March of Dimes, are working to persuade Congress to fund this important program through at least 2019.

So why didn’t Congress just extend funding for CHIP through 2019 when the law was renewed in 2010? At that time, extending the funding was calculated to cost billions of dollars per year, which would have required Congress to find corresponding budget cuts.

However, the good news is recently the Congressional Budget Office released some informal estimates indicating that extending CHIP might cost nothing beyond the already budgeted funds over the next few years.

Advocates such as the March of Dimes are working energetically to urge Congress to extend CHIP funding. Now is the time for Congress to make a favorable decision on behalf of working American families, children and pregnant women and extend CHIP funding at least until the year 2019. The health of millions of children and pregnant women rely on the insurance coverage provided by CHIP.

Frankie Robertson

state director, March of Dimes Louisiana chapter

Baton Rouge

Joseph A. Bocchini

board member, March of Dimes Louisiana chapter

Shreveport