The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) provides free or low-cost health insurance to children who do not qualify for Medicaid coverage, but whose families cannot afford private health insurance. Different states have different eligibility rules, but in general, uninsured children 18 years old and younger whose families earn up to $44,100 a year (for a family of four) are eligible.
Why is health insurance for children and teens important? Because children who have health insurance are more likely to:
- Receive the needed shots to prevent disease;
- Get treatment for recurring illnesses such as ear infections and asthma;
- Get preventative care to keep them well;
- Get sick less often; and
- Get the treatment they need when they are sick.
Under SCHIP, you can pick a doctor for your child and see that doctor whenever your child is ill, without having to worry about how you will pay for it. Your child can get immunizations and well-child visits required to attend school and play sports. If your child gets sick, you can get prescription medicines to help him or her quickly recover. Finally, you won't have to sit for hours in the emergency room when your child has an illness that could be easily treated in your doctor's office.
Cost – The cost of the plan is different depending on your state and your family's income, but when there are charges they are minimal. In some states you may need to pay a premium or copayment for your children's health insurance.
Eligibility – Your income and family size will determine if your children are eligible. The majority of children covered by this health insurance come from working families who cannot afford, or whose children are not covered by, the employer-sponsored health insurance or other private health insurance.
Applying – In most states, you can complete the application through the mail or over the phone. You are not required to give your own Social Security number or your immigration status, but that information is required to register your child for the plan. You will be asked questions about the number of people residing in your household, and the household income. In some states, you may be asked to provide proof of income, your costs for childcare, or when your child was last covered by health insurance.
To receive an application, or get more information about the State Children's Health Insurance Program, call the toll-free hotline 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669), or contact your state SCHIP program.