When the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, was passed it made many changes to private health insurance. However, the ACA also made changes to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP helps children in moderate-income families gain health insurance. The plan provides a variety of health services such as immunization, emergency care, and hearing and vision coverage.

The Affordable Care Act and Children 

Most of the changes under the ACA were for adults who needed health insurance coverage.

However, there are also provisions in ObamaCare for children, as well. One of the essential benefits is pediatric coverage. Many of the preventive health services required under the ACA are aimed at children. Additionally, all plans that offer dependent coverage must cover dependent children through age 26. Although this is one of the few changes made by the ACA that applies to all plans, there is no requirement for companies to offer dependent coverage. However, if this coverage is offered, it must cover children to age 26.

Some of the provisions that benefit adults will also assist children, such as the elimination of insurance companies’ ability to deny benefits to patients of any age with a pre-existing condition. In addition, insurance companies won’t be able to charge a higher premium for children with known health needs, helping families afford their insurance.

Finally, the ACA extended funding for CHIP through the federal fiscal year 2015, and extended authority for the program through 2019.

CHIP Coverage and Medicaid Expansion 

One of the most important provisions in the ACA that affected both children and lower to moderate-income adults was Medicaid expansion. Although the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government couldn’t mandate expansion, many states chose to move forward with it. As a result, millions of new Americans qualified for Medicaid coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act. While the impact of the Medicaid expansion varies by state, depending on each state’s previous eligibility levels, children from lower-to-moderate-income homes in states that chose to expand Medicaid eligibility were especially likely to benefit.

For children enrolled in CHIP, Medicaid expansion could bring changes for their family. If a family qualifies for Medicaid but didn’t in the past, the whole family will be moved to Medicaid and CHIP coverage will end. However, that will generally be a benefit, since the adults in the household who may have been uninsured will now have access to state coverage.

If a state did not expand Medicaid, or a family isn’t eligible for Medicaid, their CHIP coverage will continue as normal. Adults in the family will have access to Marketplace plans, however, if they do not have employer-based insurance. Because the Marketplace offers financial assistance to those who earn between 100% – 400% of the poverty level, this can be a major boon to moderate-income families. For more information about qualifying for CHIP, visit the Healthcare.gov CHIP page.

Americans were affected in many ways by the ACA. One change was that health insurance for children included expanded coverage through essential benefits. Other changes included employers offering dependent care on their group plans, the elimination of barring coverage or charging more for pre-existing conditions, and the expansion of Medicaid in many states. It’s important for all American families to know their choices and pick the best option for their household – especially their children.