Affordability is integral to the success of health care reforms aimed at ensuring universal access to health insurance coverage, and affordability determinations have major policy and practical consequences. This article describes factors that influenced the determination of affordability benchmarks and premium-contribution requirements for Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expansions in three states that sought to universalize access to coverage for youth. It also compares subsidy levels developed in these states to the premium subsidy schedule under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for health insurance plans purchased through an exchange. We find sizeable variability in premium-contribution requirements for children's coverage as a percentage of family income across the three states and in the progressivity and regressivity of the premium-contribution schedules developed. These findings underscore the ambiguity and subjectivity of affordability standards. Further, our analyses suggest that while the ACA increases the affordability of family coverage for families with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level, the evolution of CHIP over the next five to ten years will continue to have significant implications for low-income families.

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