You may know Kentucky as the home of fried chicken, bourbon, and the Derby, but it’s also home to a top-quality Medicaid program for underprivileged kids. Known as KCHIP (Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program), this extension of the Medicaid program in Kentucky is one of the best programs in the country — if not the single best — for providing children's health insurance to families who can't afford it. It has served over 270,000 children and counting since its inception in 1997.
Growing up, my two little sisters and I were on KCHIP. It paid for many doctor's appointments and emergency room visits, as well as a new pair of glasses for each of us every year and braces on our teeth.
We got all of this without paying a single dime for premiums, co-pays, or drug costs.
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For your family to qualify for KCHIP, you must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that comes out to a maximum household income of $50,200 a year in 2018. Keep in mind that KCHIP is a variable program. If you fall somewhere near that number, you may have to pay some premiums and drug expenses, but it will still be heavily subsidized.
My family, headed by someone who is disabled and with a household income of less than $20,000 a year, receives fully subsidized, zero-cost health care.
There are some flaws to the program, though. The biggest one that I’ve faced is that coverage stops at age 19. After that, you’re forced to get your own health insurance either through general Medicaid (if you qualify) or through the general exchange at HealthCare.gov.
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This could easily be improved by adding a clause in the program to extend the coverage through graduation if the child is an in-state college student. It would reduce headache for many students who end up rushing to find coverage in the middle of their education. Plus, I don’t imagine it would cost taxpayers too much money, since most of the kids who will qualify for KCHIP will qualify for general Medicaid, as well.
Learn More: KCHIP and Other Children's Health Care Programs
To find out more about the program or how to apply, visit the KCHIP website.
There are also comparable programs in other states, such as All About Kids in Illinois, Ohio Healthy Start in Ohio, and Hoosier Healthwise in Indiana. If you're not sure what's offered in your area, a quick Google search for “CHIP program” followed by your state of residence should return what you’re looking for.
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Most states provide similar forms of CHIP health care, but you should check your state’s health care website for details.