President Obama, on February 4, signed legislation allowing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to be expanded—by about 50% over the next four-and-a-half years—to cover 11 million people. Coverage for teenagers and young adults under CHIP includes a range of reproductive health services, including contraceptive services and supplies, in all but a few states.
Of particular note for reproductive health providers and advocates is that states will, for the first time under federal law, have the option to cover pregnant women of all ages under CHIP without getting special permission from the federal government.
Another vital provision of the new law gives states the option to cover recent immigrant children and pregnant women under CHIP and Medicaid, overriding a provision in the 1996 welfare reform law that bans coverage of legal immigrants during their first five years of residency. The attempt to curtail immigrants’ access to health care had damaging effects, including a steep decline in Medicaid enrollment among eligible legal residents since 1996.
Even if the 1996 law had worked as planned, many advocates would still have strongly questioned the wisdom of denying anyone critical health services. A lack of reproductive health care, in particular, can have severe repercussions for women, children, families and society.
The CHIP expansions will be funded primarily by an increase in federal tobacco taxes.
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