About Children's Health Insurance
Children have had access to health care, at the discretion of parents, guardians or the state, for as long as adults have. The same holds true for health care insurance. Family policies have covered children since insurance companies first issued them in the 1930s. People in the United States believe strongly that a parent's major responsibility involves ensuring her children grow to strong and healthy adulthood. Right or wrong, with some exceptions, the U.S. health care insurance system treats children the same way it treats adults.
Who Has It?
The federal government does not mandate health care insurance for children. If a family chooses not to purchase health care, or can't afford it, they don't have to do so. Children whose families have health care policies are covered; children in families that don't have them are not.
If you don't have or cannot afford comprehensive family health insurance through your work or on your own, but want it for your children, you have two options. You can purchase a policy directly from an insurance company that covers only your children or, depending on your circumstances, you can enroll your children in Medicaid or in Medicaid's separate Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
All health insurance companies sell health policies to cover children. Offerings differ according to the company (and there are a lot of them), as do prices. Options (benefits) too will differ, but with due diligence you should be able to find an affordable plan for your child (HMO, PPO or POS). You will be responsible for paying monthly premiums, meeting a deductible and co-pays.
In 1965, as part of the Johnson administration's "Great Society" initiative, Congress modified the Social Security Act to create Medicare (senior health care) and Medicaid, a joint federal and state program, initially intended to provide health care for low-income children deprived of parental support. In 1989, Congress expanded Medicaid to include pregnant women and children aged 6 and under and, 3 years later (1989), they phased children aged 6 through 18 into the program.
Congress created CHIP as part of the Balanced Budget Act in 1997, basing it on an existing Pennsylvania program of the same name. In 2009, President Obama signed the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), renewing the program and expanding its coverage from 7 to 11 million children. If your children don't meet Medicaid's eligibility requirement (they may, even if you don't), you should still try enrolling them in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), also a joint federal-state program and part of Medicaid, designed for children who, for one reason or another (usually family income), do not qualify for Medicaid.