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Significant Operational Changes to CHIP Overlaps with Medicaid Unwinding

Starting April 17th, DHS will decide who qualifies for the Children's Health Insurance Program and process all new applications and renewals. The current 130,000 CHIP families—and all new enrollees—must go through DHS instead of their CHIP health insurance plan to determine eligibility. 

The transition of eligibility processing and determinations from the CHIP plans to caseworkers in local DHS County Assistance Offices is on the heels of the unwinding process of Medicaid continuous coverage that began on April 1st.  

CAOs, which already have full workloads with the unprecedented task of Medicaid unwinding, will now be responsible for processing CHIP applications and renewals. 

And while the CHIP eligibility transition had been in the works long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the state ultimately was able to determine its timing. 

PPC and other children's health advocates flagged this timing as concerning, urging DHS to postpone the CHIP eligibility transition until later in the year, given the state's flexibility on when to implement this change. 

While we are disappointed that DHS hasn't delayed the CHIP eligibility transition, we are doing our part in sharing what this change means for CHIP families for the April 17th implementation. 

Check out our CHIP changes webpage for more details about how this change will impact CHIP families. 


April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month 

April is an opportunity to increase public awareness and community action for child abuse prevention.  

In 2021 there were 38,013 reports of child abuse—14% were substantiated or found to be true, and 161,709 reports of child neglect—27.1% were substantiated. Sexual abuse continues to be the leading cause of child abuse referrals, and caregiver substance use is the leading cause of neglect referrals. One way to prevent child maltreatment is to provide support for families all year by supporting and enabling them to care for their children safely before maltreatment is even possible.  

PPC was honored to participate in the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance's flag-planting and PA Blue Ribbon Champion's for Safe Kids event, recognizing this month of advocacy. Together with other advocacy organizations, policymakers, Acting DHS Secretary Arkoosh, OCYF Deputy Secretary Laval Miller-Wilson, and community leaders, more than 5,000 blue flags were planted, representing every victim of child abuse in 2022. Another 58 flags were planted for each child who died of child abuse, 58 too many.  

This April, engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—we'll highlight data and resources promoting child abuse prevention. Learn more about efforts to reduce child maltreatment in PA and other policy solutions in our 2022 State of Child Welfare report.  


House Committees Start Strong with Two Hearings

The House Children & Youth Committee held two informational hearings last week on topics that impact kids—child care challenges in Pennsylvania and a joint informational meeting on the importance of childhood nutrition and school meals with the House Education Committee.  

The first hearing explored child care centers' hiring and retaining qualified staff issues. Partners PennAEYC and the Pennsylvania Child Care Association from the Start Strong PA campaign testified, emphasizing the current staffing crisis in child care centers. New House Children & Youth Committee Chairs Donna Bullock (D-Philadelphia) and Barry Jozwiak (R-Berks) reiterated their top priority as committee chairs is children and committed to continue working on addressing child care issues. 

Testifiers at the joint informational nutrition hearing included WIC Director Sally Zubairu-Cofield and universal school lunch bill (HB 180) sponsor Rep. Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny). It mainly focused on Gov. Shapiro's proposed $38.5 million in the 2023-24 budget to continue free school breakfast and lightly expand free and reduced lunch. PPC submitted written testimony. The majority and minority committee chairs agreed that the topic of the hearing was critical to the well-being of all Pennsylvania's children.  


Budget Hearings Continue with DOH and PDE

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are continuing their budget hearing schedules, hosting the Department of Health most recently. Acting Secretary Dr. Debra Bogen provided testimony and answered questions ranging from medical marijuana and support for nurses to WIC and black maternal mortality rates. 

During the hearing, Rep. Gina Curry spoke on black maternal health and asked the department for clarification on what the $2.3 million allocation will go toward. Acting Sec. Bogen stated that black maternal health, and maternal health in general, is a top priority. She added that the Maternal Mortality Review Commission published a report last year making recommendations, and the funding in this budget will go toward implementing many of those recommendations for programming, in addition to supporting staff during implementation. Reps. Mayes and Cephas also spoke to the importance of continued investments in maternal health and mortality.   

Rep. Regina Young highlighted the department's intent to increase WIC enrollment and participation. Acting Sec. Bogen elaborated on the planned modernization of the WIC program, including virtually loaded EBT cards, reduced barriers to services, continuing virtual visits, and ensuring local agencies are servicing those most in need.  

In the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Department of Education had its hearing following up from its House appearance a few weeks ago. Much like its first appearance, questions covered increases to the Basic Education Funding formula, school choice, Career and Technical Education and the free school breakfast program.  

Sen. Lindsay Williams mentioned legislation in other states allowing universal free breakfast and free lunch and asked why Gov. Shapiro thinks it's important for breakfast to be in this year's budget. Acting Secretary Khalid Mumin noted starting with free breakfast is a starting point in the conversation to include universal free lunch, with its estimated cost ($435 million) needing to be further considered.  

Regarding CTE, Sen. Culver asked how much is in the budget for CTE this year compared to last year. Sec. Mumin said there is a $23.8 million total investment in CTE with $17.3 million in the PDE budget for CTE—$7 million for the subsidy, $3.3 million for equipment, $5 million for PASmart and $2 million for the state-level Industry in the School Program. Jessica Sites, PDE's Bureau of Budget and Fiscal Management Director said the school code must fully fund the CTE line, and PDE has been pulling money from PASmart to fulfill that. She also noted that the department will not know until next year whether the subsidy increase will go toward career and technical centers.  

Look for more upcoming e-news coverage on remaining budget hearings. The House hosts the Department of Human Services on April 11th and the Office of the Budget on April 14th. The Senate will feature the Department of Human Services on April 12th and the Department of Health on April 13th. 


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Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
200 North Third Street 13th Floor
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(717) 236-5680

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