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Corbett hopes to maintain children's health insurance

| Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday he wants to keep the state's Children's Health Insurance Program intact under the nation's new health care law, not only maintaining the decades-old program but expanding it with an $8.5 million budgetary boost.

Corbett discussed his plans for the program during a tour of the Estelle S. Campbell Boys and Girls Club in Lawrenceville.

Federal regulators denied Corbett's first request last week. If special permission isn't granted by Dec. 31, more than one-fourth of CHIP's 180,000 enrollees will be switched to Medicaid coverage under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

CHIP covers all uninsured children in Pennsylvania who do not qualify for Medicaid or other insurance programs.

“Not approving the governor's plan, that just isn't practical,” said Amelia Paré, president of the Allegheny County Medical Society.

Many doctors under CHIP won't accept Medicaid, Paré said, meaning families would have to find a different doctor.

“We need to keep our kids in the programs they know with the doctors they've already built relationships with,” she said.

Elizabeth Stelle, policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Harrisburg, said Pennsylvania is among several states seeking a waiver that haven't received an answer.

“We fully support the governor's ambition to keep (CHIP) going, but given Health and Human Services' track record, it's not that likely,” Stelle said.

Michael Consedine, Corbett's top insurance regulator, said the administration is optimistic.

Consedine pledged to work with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on a possible compromise if CHIP disappears.

“But that isn't on our agenda at this point. (CHIP) is a proven health insurance program serving our kids,” he said, citing expanded enrollment.

Developed under the late Democratic Gov. Robert P. Casey, CHIP was based on a commercial insurance system that inspired dozens of other programs, both nationally and in other states.

To increase enrollment, CHIP advertisements will appear on buses and transit vehicles beginning Oct. 1, Corbett said, and more than 2 million fliers will be given to Pennsylvania students. A portion of the $8.5 million increase from the state will pay for the advertising campaign.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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