No CHIP Funding? Not a Good Look for Reproductive Health

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is on shaky ground.

Part of my daytime job is to monitor and report out all the latest news on CHIP, and let me tell you, it’s not always a pretty picture. Since running out of funding earlier this fall, the health coverage of 9 million kids and teens under 19 years old is now up in the air.* Despite promises to extend CHIP, Jimmy Kimmel’s heartfelt pleas, and tons and tons of research showing the impact of inaction, several states are now warning families that, hey, they might need to look elsewhere for their children’s routine check-ups, immunizations, and prescriptions.

It’s not a good look to begin with: throwing vulnerable communities into a lurch and deepening their hole into poverty as things like rent and utility bills and groceries are traded in just to get the essential health care services they absolutely deserve.

Is that a bleak picture for you? Well, it gets a little worse. Did you know CHIP also plays an extremely important role in reproductive health care for these low-income kids and teens?

In the United States, nearly all of teen pregnancies are unplanned. One report from the Guttmacher Institute has the number as high as 75 percent! (And even more harrowing, teens in the low-income brackets are more likely to become pregnant, which is the exact demographic CHIP covers.) But through initiatives like CHIP, all teens—regardless of income—can have access to the reproductive health services they need. Which, in my view, is really awesome.

It’s a well known fact that women who decide to become pregnant and have access to quality family planning information are better prepared for the demands of a pregnancy. But let’s face it: not all things can be carefully planned. That’s where prevention comes in. Sadly, low-income kids, teens, and their families are more often than not the ones who cannot afford access to reproductive health care and the resources to prevent unintended pregnancies. But CHIP helps to bridge that gap!

From routine gynecologic exams to sexuality education and pregnancy testing to pregnancy care, CHIP helps prevent pregnancies in the first place, and, if they happen, helps these teens have better delivery, healthier babies, and healthier lives. Ultimately, it’s a win-win: reducing the rates of unintended pregnancies for teens in low-income communities leads to huge net public savings. For example, in 2010, publicly funded family planning services saved over $15 billion bucks.

With all these amazing things that CHIP does, it’s mind-boggling that funding hasn’t been extended. If our elected officials can’t reach agreement on extending funding for CHIP, they are taking away low-income adolescents’ access to basic reproductive health services. Again, not a good look.

*CHIP covers 9 million uninsured, low-income children whose parents earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other types of private coverage. Learn more about CHIP.

By volunteer Kaitlyn B.
Kaitlyn is the Communications Specialist at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.